Max Kilman – From Futsal to Premier League regular

Maximilian William Kilman, classy by name, classy by nature. A young man on a mission to write himself into Wolves’ starting XIs for the future. After years of widely reported success playing futsal, and a three-year stint in the National League, a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers followed, joining the u-23’s on their quest for promotion. Kilman played a key role in achieving this goal, the personal reward being recognition from Wolves’ first team Head Coach Nuno. 

 

Espirito Santo’s penultimate year at the helm of Wolves birthed the start of Max’s rise. A plethora of confident cameos in Europe gave Wolves fans something to be excited about, appearing assertive in the tackle and quick across the ground for someone of his stature. Additionally, a combination of major injuries and stagnating form for the likes of Willy Boly, gave Max even more reason to stake his claim in the first team selection – warranted with a contract extension. Nuno’s final year of his tenure was where the centre-backs confidence shot for the moon, pocketing the best of what the Premier League had to offer. Wolves fans were particularly impressed by Kilman, despite the clubs shambolic season of defensive frailty. His album of standing and sliding conviction, partnered with an underappreciated ability to bring the ball out from the back was ever-growing for the 24-year-old, akin to “national hero,” Harry Maguire at the time.

 

COVID-19 took fans out of stadiums, players struggled to adapt to the change of scene. But not many had a worse season behind the scenes than Max, with his father passing in November 2020, it would have been entirely understandable to see a significant drop off in his form. However, Max’s performances displayed consistency that his defensive teammates could only wish for that year, and a Premier League man of the match award was to come following a hard-fought battle in Yorkshire at Elland Road. 

 

A season of dire football and a 13th place finish in the Premier League meant NES was consequentially relieved of his duties at Wolves. Fears began to grow amongst fans over who would take the wheel, with rumours appearing out of the cracks of Wolverhampton pavements. Yet, there was an overriding hope that the new gaffer would start with a defensive 4, taking the shackles off our attacking talent and bringing our defenders off the by-line. Left-footed centre backs somehow became the talk of footballing punditry during the European championships, particularly those who can pass the ball efficiently, with pace.

Unsurprisingly, Portugal provided Nuno’s successor, by the name of Bruno Lage. A coach with an attacking mindset and an unrivalled admiration for goals galore. Being the baby of Wolves’ first-team centre backs (minus the addition of Yerson Mosquera), fans worried that experience would take him out of favour of Lage. Don’t let his height deceive you though, Max is still a cub amongst this pack of Wolves, he just so happens to be a better hunter than his elders. Seven games into the new Premier League season, not one performance below a 6/10. Beyond comfortable in the most competitive league on the planet, baffles me to this day that FIFA would not permit this man to play for Ukraine if he could, no doubt that he’d be a seasoned international already. A proper centre-back, a position Wolves fans have been crying out to fill in the rear of 4 years with midfielders protecting our goalkeeper. 

 

Max hasn’t got to his peak just yet, but he’s way past base camp. Kilman’s climb is well underway, evidencing a constant lesson in the art of defending, and pride in a clean sheet. Molineux is his classroom, the prem is his playground. Preachers state that consistency is key, and if that is the case, Max has got a bright future at the top echelons of professional football. 

 

Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here

 

Molineux

This is Our Love and it Knows No Super League

This is Our Love and it Knows No Division. This is Our Game and we’ll make the Decisions.

 

18th April 2021. Wolves had edged past Sheffield United the night before, Fulham have just conceded yet another late equaliser and the nation was nursing its first Sunday hangover for months. Some would say normality is resuming. But twelve despicable custodians of some of the biggest clubs in Europe had other ideas, six of whom brought shame upon the English game. It was during Manchester United’s victory over Burnley that news really began to gather pace that a European Super League was set to be announced, with the self-proclaimed and media enhanced ‘Big Six’ signing up. 

Within that six were Arsenal, the same Arsenal who had just hours ago scraped a point at home to Championship heading Fulham. Among those six were Tottenham, less league titles than Wolves and the same amount as Burnley. Yes, Burnley. Among those six were Manchester United, who have struggled every single time they have faced little old Wolves since 2018. You get the idea. But this was not about creating jokes, this was not about gloating over your rivals. The announcement spoke of a tournament that ‘will provide significantly greater economic growth [and] uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues’, how exciting. They weren’t even trying to hide the money grabbing experiment. This abomination was enough to unite fans up and down the country and even brought about a sense of unity in the wonderful world of football twitter. This was nothing short of an attack on our game, our traditions, our history and our heritage. An attack from people whose football opinions would not be worth the time of day. It was an attack even more relevant to Wolves fans, and fans of many other ambitious Premier League clubs, which would kill our dreams and Fosun’s dreams of one day challenging the elite on a regular basis, of competing at the pinnacle of European football. The response from neglected club officials, staff, players, the media and most impressive of all the fans was exemplary and showed the impact fans still have on our game. Our game because that is what it is. It does not belong to the cash cows in America, or the executives at Sky Sports. Gary Neville was praised and rightly so, he articulated the thoughts of millions perfectly, as did many others. But there was one moment, just 24 hours after the news gathered speed, that filled us with a particular sense of pride. It was no surprise that Fosun and Wolves as a club would be against the formation of a Super League, but the way in which they expressed their disgust was mesmerising. 

At periods of [our] history, we were one of the most successful and decorated clubs in England, falling out of the country’s top three just once over a nine-year period and winning the league three times. But at others we tumbled down the leagues, spending seasons in the second, third and fourth tiers, almost going out of existence on more than one occasion. (Official Wolves)

And this is certainly worth remembering. If you dare mention the fact Wolves were in League One just seven years ago on twitter you are often shunned down, and don’t you dare mention the years of struggle when Wolves nearly went out of business. Now when trying to make excuses for Wolves’ lacklustre campaign that may be fair, but Wolves fans should take pride in the ride this club and its fans have been on, in both long standing and modern history. Everyone reading this now will have endured the double relegation, the feeling of desolation and despair. But will also have enjoyed the revival, spearheaded by Kenny Jackett in what was a thoroughly enjoyable two years that followed. ‘This is Our Love and it Known no Division’ was the banner and the phrase that rejuvenated the fanbase, and it is a mantra that means more now than ever before. From that season we finally had a team that cared. We had a team that gave 100% and that is all a Wolves fan is ever going to ask for. 

In sport, nothing is forever; champions come and go, dynasties disappear, sleeping giants awake and new challengers test the status quo. That is the beauty of sport, and what epitomises the beautiful game. (Official Wolves)

Perhaps the most striking and quotable part of the Wolves statement. It needs no explanation and speaks to football fans up and down the country. It emphasises the point that this is not about who you support, or where you watch your football, this is about our game itself, our passion and our way of life.

As a foreign owner, Fosun came to the UK in 2016 and embraced our club, our history and our supporters, but also the country and its proud traditions, one of which is the most historic football system in the world. That sense of competition is what appealed most to Fosun then, and still just as strongly now. Our promotion and relegation systems, built on solid foundations of competition and fairness, create promise, ambition, success and failure – all of which are essential in the sport. If you work hard enough and operate with greater intelligence and commitment than your competitors, you will be successful, you can challenge the top clubs and rise to their level through your own efforts, and that cannot change.  Fosun made a commitment in 2016 when they took over this historic football club and have displayed their dedication since, taking Wolves on a journey from the Championship to the Europa League – an example of the type of ascent which makes English football so special. That commitment stands just as strong now, in 2021, as it did five years ago. Fosun remain completely devoted to Wolves and harbour the same sizeable ambitions, which they hope to achieve through a meticulous, long-term plan. (Official Wolves)

This is certainly where the statement becomes personal to Wolves fans. Fosun have brought huge success on and off the field since buying the club in 2016. Although the past 12 months have been disappointing, the club is in as good as a position now as it has been for generations. Much was made of such a historic and traditional club being taken over by a Chinese investment group, but almost all Wolves fans had a feeling we’d hit the jackpot (unlike some of our neighbours). Jeff Shi openly admitted he knew little about running a football club and the rollercoaster first season certainly didn’t argue with that. But he learnt, Fosun learnt, and three near-perfect years followed. There is certainly learning to be done from this season too, but Fosun relayed their commitment with this statement, while providing Wolves fans and English football with a reminder that not all foreign owners are bad. The mention of operating with ‘greater intelligence and commitment’ to ‘challenge the top clubs and rise to their level’ was a direct warning to the owners who are scared. Scared of us, Leicester, West Ham, Leeds and all the others who have bridged the gap to the cosy club in the Premier League. Well, we’re here to stay, all of us. There is no doubt Fosun are here to run Wolves as a business, they are an investment group after all and a successful one at that. But they respect our traditions, and they respect history, the clubs’ values align with theirs and they want success for the club just as much as we do. 

A kick in the teeth and a kick in the pockets of these billionaires, cowardly billionaires, that own some of our biggest and most historic clubs with some of the most loyal and vocal fans around. A victory for us who dream, to put our trust in Fosun, Jeff Shi and Nuno and to get back on track. Next season brings new hope and huge expectation, and if they get it right, we’ll be playing for a place in European competition once again. A victory for football and its fans (Sorry, legacy fans), and this is just the beginning.

 

Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.

craven cottage

Fulham 0-1 Wolves : The Debrief

Typical Wolves. Just as you’re ready to pen a withering diatribe about system failures or thump out a tweet listing the names of players you’d gladly flog in the summer, up pops Traore with a screamer. Grimacing, you accept the three points.

Nuno and his coaching staff merged in to a familiar celebratory huddle as Alphonse Areola committed the ultimate goalkeeping crime of being beaten at his near post. In the opposite corner, Scott Parker looked like a man who could do with an arm around the shoulder himself.

 

Fulham’s tears on the Thames

 

As anyone with a pair of eyes will attest, it was far from perfect, but Wolves got the win, smashed and grabbed three points and left Fulham wallowing in literal tears of misery. It was harsh on the home team.

In fact, making a case that either side deserved maximum points would be a stretch. Silva’s through ball was divine, Traore’s thumping finish ruthless and the previous hour-and-a-half of tedium almost forgotten.

 

Conor Coady won his battle with Mitrovic

 

There were personal battles raging all over the pitch. Kongolo, Tete and Andersen toiled hard to keep Podence, Neto (briefly) and Traore honest. Back in the side to torment his old defensive foe, Conor Coady, Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic had spent a lot of the season warming the bench.

Enjoying good international form, when Mitrovic scored against Aston Villa on Sunday, Fulham were half an hour away from closing the gap even more on a Wolves side that lost to West Ham shortly after. Fulham opted for capitulation, Villa came back to win 3-1 and the gap remained.

 

Jose’s first Wolves goal disallowed

 

Back at Craven Cottage, in first half injury time Daniel Podence teased a dainty cross into the box and Willian Jose did what he was supposed to do. Powering a header past Areola, the Brazilian wheeled away in delight having finally broken his duck. Or so he thought.

Instead, VAR crashed the Wolves party room, flicking on the light like an angry parent. Jose and company had been cruelly foiled. This new-fangled technology, designed to remove discussion and debate over contentious decisions, once again attempted to suck away any last vestige of goal scoring enjoyment. 

 

Cavaleiro missed his opportunity for revenge

 

The sign of Ivan Cavaleiro leisurely jogging on to the turf may have filled some observers with dread. Old player coming back to bite Wolves, just as former favourite Diogo Jota had done for Liverpool. It was written. Or maybe not. As reliable as a Duncan Castles scoop, ‘Cav’ dutifully drifted into obscurity.

Time and again Adama was outnumbered and ruthlessly dumped to the ground. Time and again Daniel Podence, still sluggishly recovering from injury, found his usually reliable touch and tidy ball control strangely absent.

Despite Fulham’s apparent tooth lessness going forward, still the Wolves handbrake remained intact. Scott Parker’s urgency increased. His substitutions became more offensive. Fulham fancied it.

With 15 minutes remaining Wolves suddenly looked a little fingernail ragged, clinging on with a touch more desperation as each minute passed. The end-to-end frivolity of Monday night’s defeat to West Ham garnered little fruit while providing sporadic moments of entertainment. This was just dire.

 

Portuguese wonderkid drops an assist

 

The away side’s kit may have strongly resembled the free-flowing pleasures of a prime Portugal, but that was where the similarities ended. Wolves’ approach was stale. It lacked imagination. Nobody would’ve batted an eyelid had the camera panned pitch side to find Jose Mourinho sitting in the away dugout, pulling the tactical strings.

Bounding around the field with all the enthusiasm of a new-born puppy, snapping at the heels of the Fulham players, Fabio Silva’s endeavour was never beyond question. Even an unfortunate collision with an advertising hoarding failed to dampen his zeal. 

Unlike his impressive cameo against West Ham, Silva was unable to hit the net. No matter, VAR probably would’ve ruled it out anyway. Fabio made do with a silky slide rule assist to release the beast that is Traore and help push the Cottagers further into the relegation mire.

 

Wolves meander into mid table

 

Even the slithering killjoys at Stockley Park were unable to prevent the marauding Spaniard from ending his goal drought. Adama’s powerful strike successfully killed off any lingering doubts around Premier League survival.

The muscled Adonis had engineered a reward for months of fruitless labour and for another night the wider cracks remain glued with a few sheets of A4. 

As bubbling frustrations across Wolverhampton and beyond quickly simmered, Nuno will not sit comfortably. Those withering tweets are merely postponed. Consigned to drafts until we return.

 

Steve Wellings is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here