Johnny Phillips: Gazball has won over players and supporters
Wolves’ win over Chelsea was perhaps the defining moment so far of a story that has been developing since the opening weekend of the season.
When Wolves went to Old Trafford, the new head coach put a group of players out on the pitch to face Manchester United in the knowledge that his hardest job was earning the trust and support of a squad that had just lost its previous manager.
Steadily and methodically, the tables have been turned. It is the players who now know it is their job to continue to earn the trust of Gary O’Neil. Of all the achievements since August – which include rejuvenated performances from players like Hwang Hee-Chan, Nelson Semedo and others – the head coach’s biggest success has been to achieve an almost total buy-in from a squad of players who have real belief when they take the pitch each week, regardless of the opposition.
Matheus Cunha’s hat-trick at Stamford Bridge was an utter joy for the thousands of travelling supporters. He perhaps personifies this point about ‘buying in’ to O’Neil’s work. The Brazilian took some convincing to be cajoled into the role of the central front man but he is reaping the rewards now, and last Sunday he gave supporters a day they will never forget. The fist pumping full-time celebrations from O’Neil – encouraged by his players – provided the perfect image of a squad and staff united.