John Ruddy left Wolves in the summer after a five-year stay at Molineux. The former England international sat down EXCLUSIVELY with Talking Wolves to chat about his time at Wolves.
Signing for Wolves
Ruddy signed for Wolves in the summer of 2017 as the club’s no.1 after the heart breaking news that Carl Ikeme had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
“The move only came about after Carl’s news broke which was devastating for everybody and Wolves needed to act quickly. For both parties it worked really well as the club was replacing an experienced goalkeeper with a goalkeeper with similar experience but for me it worked because I was going to a club who had ambitions to get promoted.”
The promotion winning season
That summer, Wolves brought in the likes of Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Willy Boly.
“You could always see the quality with Neves, Diogo and Boly,” explained Ruddy. “There were other players too though – Bonatini, Douglas and Bennett were pivotal for us.”
When asked if he knew straight away that the club were going to be battling for promotion, Ruddy explained that you could see quality across the squad but the team cohesion helped too.
“Nuno came in and never changed his philosophy for any team and we knew every player’s role across the team which made it a lot easier for the cohesion across the group. Going into games, we all knew what we expected from each position which was massive for us that season and the only disappointment was not getting 100 points.”
Wolves went to already relegated Sunderland on the final day of that season, needing just one point to break the 100 points barrier but head coach Nuno Espirito Santo made wholesale changes to the line-up as Wolves lost the game 3-0.
“I was having a hernia operation that day so I couldn’t play,” Ruddy said. “I think Nuno wanted to give people recognition for stuff behind the scenes that most people wouldn’t have seen. He was very good at managing the squad and keeping people happy that season but he was still expecting to bring at least a point back!”
THAT Cardiff game
Wolves fans will need no reminders about the game that almost clinched promotion back to the Premier League for Wolves in the most dramatic fashion.
Ruddy was involved in two late penalties for Cardiff, with Wolves 1-0 up – saving one of them as Junior Hoilett hit the crossbar with the other.
“It was a lively bus on the way back from Cardiff”, said Ruddy. “Rui Silva came on the bus (assistant manager at the time) and we all asked whether we could have a few beers considering we’d just pretty much won promotion. Him and Nuno strolled over to the Asda and bought us all a few crates so we could have beer on the way home. It was a real nice moment.”
For most Wolves fans watching, they were watching those closing moments through their fingers but Ruddy said the team knew what to expect.
“We knew how they were going to play and we stood up to that until the last minute but I still don’t think the ‘push’ from Coady was a foul,” explained Ruddy.
“I’ll give Cav the benefit of the doubt for the other one and he’s still adamant to this day that he slipped but I still don’t know what he’s doing,” jokes Ruddy.
Promotion to the Premier League
That summer, Wolves bought Rui Patricio who was instated as Wolves’ No.1 by Nuno, meaning John Ruddy would have to watch from the side lines for the majority of that season. Ruddy knew the club would bring in goalkeeping reinforcements but he felt it was his shirt to lose.
“When Nuno told me he was going to be playing Rui then there’s not much I can do apart from just take it,” said Ruddy. “Nuno told me two weeks before the Premier League season was meant to start.”
Ruddy felt that Nuno could have told him sooner about his decision as the Championship season was starting one week after the news was broken to him, meaning it was unlikely he could find another club to play for.
“You either sit here and kick up a fuss or you just get on with it and the person I am, I just got on with it,” explained Ruddy. “I always backed myself and if I was given the opportunity I would have taken it but that didn’t come.”
Wolves missed out on reaching the FA Cup Final that season in the most heartbreaking fashion as they lost to Watford in extra time – despite being 2-0 up for most of the game.
“It’s the one game in my career that I’ve never watched any footage back from and it’s the biggest regret in my career,” explained Ruddy. “We were ten seconds away from winning the game and by that point you’re so deflated and it’s very difficult to get yourself going again but all the lads feel the same and it shouldn’t have gone the way it did.”
Wolves in Europe
Despite their FA Cup woes, Wolves still managed to pick themselves up and qualify for the Europa League as they finished seventh in the league.
Wolves’ Europa League campaign started in Armenia and Northern Ireland and Ruddy explained that the travelling did take it out of the players a little.
“We landed back in England from Armenia at five o’clock Friday morning and then you’re playing again on the Sunday,” said John. “It was brilliant for the club and it helped the club grow a lot quicker in terms of the techniques used for recoveries and from my point of view, to go to the likes of Besiktas to play was a dream.”
The departure of Nuno
Wolves announced a few days before the last fixture of the 20/21 season that Nuno Espirito Santo was to leave the club after four years.
The decision and the timing came as a shock to many Wolves fans and Ruddy explained that the timing was strange but the decision was less surprising.
“We had a meeting just before the Everton game and Nuno brought us all into the changing room and told us what was happening,” said Ruddy. “It was a tough meeting because you’d shared a dressing room for four years, so it was tough to see him getting so emotional as he had invested a lot into the club and we’d invested a lot into him during that period.”
Ruddy explained further, “The timing was a shock but you could just sense that something was brewing and something wasn’t quite right. He started to tinker with things which he had never done before which was one of the first signs.”
Rui Patricio out and Jose Sa in
In the summer that Nuno left Wolves, No.1 goalkeeper Rui Patricio also left the club for Roma meaning there was a vacant goalkeeping spot in the Wolves team. Wolves bought Jose Sa to fill this void and Ruddy explained he’d already called what would happen in April that year.
“I was round Ruben’s (Neves) for dinner in April and we were chatting about Rui maybe moving on and I said “If Rui leaves we’ll just bring in Jose Sa anyway” and Ruben knew Jose anyway and he said “ah yes, that would make sense because Jose might be looking to leave Olympiacos.””
Ruddy feels that Sa can reach the heights of Patricio’s career and feels he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves from the Portugal national team but feels Rui may have struggled to play the way Bruno Lage wants to.
“With all due respect to Rui, I feel he may have struggled to play the way that Bruno wants his keepers to play,” said Ruddy. “That’s why Sa stood out last year because he’s the complete opposite in terms of playing styles to Rui.”
Working under Bruno Lage
Ruddy spent his final season at Wolves under current Head Coach Bruno Lage. Ruddy believes that Lage is a fantastic coach but is still learning other parts of his trade.
“He’s a very good coach on the training pitch and is extremely thorough,” Ruddy said. “His man-management could be improved as he’s very passionate so you know exactly what he’s thinking, which, sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing. At this level of management you need to find a balance and with Bruno, he will come in and you will know exactly how he is feeling – whether that is good or bad.”
“It’s different styles of management for different people though and in terms of how he coaches a team, he is very, very good.”
Leaving Wolves on a free transfer
John Ruddy left Wolves at the end of his contract in May this year after five years at the club. Many reports suggest that Ruddy was offered a new deal and he explained, with real sensitivity, what actually happened.
“I had a meeting with people at the club and they explained that they had an option for an extension which I didn’t know about,” said John. “I said I wanted to go and play first team football but I will do what’s right for the club and if you’ve got the option then the ball is in your court. It got to about six or seven weeks before the end of the season and I was informed they were going to take the option.”
Despite wanting playing time, Ruddy said that he was happy to stay at Wolves but the contract saga took a twist just days before the end of the season.
“The day before the end of the season was the day they had to confirm they were going to take up the option and it was on that day that the club let me know they weren’t going to trigger it.”
Ruddy would then have to come on to replace Jose Sa in the fixture at Anfield the next day.
An Instagram post from Ruddy’s account suggested that the goalkeeper was a little disgruntled with how the club dealt with it but Ruddy said he understood the decision.
“The club is a business and if they feel as a business then it will be better not to carry me for another year then that’s fine but honesty in football is quite hard to come by but there are honest people at Wolves. I’ve got no issue with the outcome – just how the outcome was dealt with.”
Ruddy doesn’t feel like the situation is a big deal though and genuinely wanted the best for the club but alluded to the fact that senior board members at the club had the final say on the decision. Ruddy believes that both Scott Sellars and Bruno Lage were in favour of him staying.
The former England international also feels that the club has had the opportunity to push on and break into the top six if Wolves had made some key signings.
“I don’t think it’s just necessarily last season but Wolves have had a couple of quiet windows and finishing seventh twice in a row would have been a good opportunity to bring in the right people, at the right time and we could have kicked on but you have to find the right people. For every Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Pedro Neto, there are players that you aren’t going to make your money back on so it’s about finding the right players and nurturing them the right way.”
Ruddy believes that the injuries that have happened in recent times can’t be legislated for.
“When you lose key players in the way that we did then it will affect any squad and you can’t legislate for that. Perhaps the club could have made more additions but would have those additions gone straight into the first team. You can buy players for the future like Fabio Silva and if you get the injuries Wolves have had then there’s no guarantee these players are going to be ready.
Life after Wolves
Ruddy, who travels from Norfolk but plans to find somewhere closer to Birmingham for himself, is now the No.1 keeper at Birmingham City. He admitted it was a quiet summer for clubs trying to secure his services.
“It was very quiet in terms of approaches but I think it was a difficult window for a lot of people. I’m 35 and I’ve not played consistently for four years so it’s hard to say to these clubs “come and pick me up” but Birmingham came in and the manager has been brilliant with me since I’ve gone there.”
Being the No.1 is a good feeling again for Ruddy who’s had an unbeaten start to his time at St Andrews.
John Ruddy has already started doing his coaching badges but he explained he still isn’t sure whether that’s for him but it’s good to have options.
“It’s a lot of work and admin”, joked Ruddy. “It’s not something that I am desperate to follow but the badges are something I’d like to have as an option.”
Ruddy finishes with a statement of fond memories and a real proud feeling about his time at Molineux.
“It doesn’t matter how it ended, I will always have fond memories of Wolves and it was a real honour to be part of the club and to play a small part in the success we had.”