Top Bins Talk is excited to announce our new column “From The Fans,” a dialogue between ourselves and the most passionate of supporters from teams around the globe. We ask them a whole host of questions regarding the current state of their side, their favorite memories as a fan, and their hopes for the future of their team.
First up is lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers fan Robbie Meakin. You can find him on twitter @ItsRobbieAyit. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been supporting Wolves and what is your best memory as a fan? How and why did you become a fan of Wolves?
My name’s Robbie Meakin, aka It’s Robbie Ayit, and I’m a lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers fan. I was born and raised in Wolverhampton, so it was a pretty easy call to be honest. I never looked elsewhere, at Man United or Arsenal and the like, it was always the old gold for me.
There have been lots of good memories following Wolves, along with the bad. It hasn’t been an easy ride, as any Wolves fan will tell you. I could go for the 2003/04 Play-Off Final, our 2008/09 promotion campaign or, what some people may think is a weird one, the 2013/14 season we spent in League One. The obvious one to go for would be our promotion to the Premier League in Nuno Espirito Santo’s first season (2017/18), or that FA cup run which saw us play at the new Wembley for the first time. What I’m going for is of relevance to that FA Cup semi-final. It’s qualifying for the UEFA Europa League after our fantastic first season back in the top flight, which saw us finish 7th.
Little old Wolverhampton Wanderers playing in Europe. To me, it was a thing of the past. I didn’t think I’d see my club reaching that standard. I grew up watching Wolves struggling to get out of Division One. Yes, we reached the Premier League on a couple of occasions, one of which lasted for just a season, but I thought that would be it. I thought that would be as good as it gets. The odd spell in the Premier League and then back to the Championship for a bit. Hopefully without touching League One again. But Fosun and Nuno came in and now it’s like it’s too good to be true, like somebody’s going to wake me up from this dream. I mean, without sounding disrespectful, yes we started out against Crusaders and then Pyunik in the next round, which felt like friendlies, but the reality of competing in Europe finally hit me when we drew Torino in the qualifying play-off. As soon as the draw was made, it was like “This is it, this is what it’s about, this is proper European football.” We didn’t have the best of starts. losing at home to Braga, but we bounced back with a hard fought win against Beşiktaş and went on to finish a comfortable 2nd in the group. We got past Espanyol in the RO32 game, following a 4-0 home win and an entertaining 3-2 in Barcelona. We picked up an away goal in the 1st leg of the RO16, drawing 1-1 at Olympiacos. Unfortunately, that was the last game to be played before football was suspended, as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Now we wait to see what happens next.
To anybody that didn’t know, Wolves were not only part of the founding of the Football League, but co-creators of European football. Managed by Stan Cullis and captained by Billy Wright, the reigning champions of England competed in a friendly against Honved, the champions of Hungary at Molineux back in 1954, winning 3-2. Stan Cullis and parts of the English press declared the old gold as ‘champions of the world’. The following season, the European Cup started.
How would you rate this current season for Wolves from 1-10 and why?
It would have to be a 10. It’s pretty much built into a Wolves fan’s DNA to be pessimistic, but it’s pretty hard to pick fault with things at the moment. We’re currently sat 6th in the Premier League, just 2 points behind Man United, competing for a Champions League place and in a strong position to qualify for the quarter finals of the Europa League. That’s a good season in anybody’s season, bar Liverpool or Man City really. Look at Tottenham and Arsenal, currently 8th and 9th in the league. I’m sure they’d love to be in the situation we find ourselves in.
Who does your club need to sign this summer? Who is your dream signing?
I’m looking forward to seeing what Guo Guangchang, Jeff Shi, Nuno and the incoming director will do in the summer. It’s going to be another window linked with anybody playing in the Primeira Liga and/or connected to Jorge Mendes. There’ll be a new name cropping up on a daily basis. My view is that we need to priotise a goalkeeper and an attacking midfielder.
John Ruddy’s contract is up at the end of the season and I think it’s time to go. It’s just the sensible option for both parties and he was brought in on a free transfer, so the club won’t be at a loss in letting him go. He played a big part in us going up, but as soon as Rui Patricio came in, I think we all knew what was going to happen. There was no way Ruddy was going to put a challenge in to keep that spot. Since the arrival of the Portuguese, Ruddy has had to make do with sitting on the bench and getting minutes in the cup, albeit remaining a model professional and constant influence in the dressing room. I think he deserves to be playing regular football, so the move would do him the world of good. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up back at Norwich, if they do end up getting relegated back to the Championship.
A lot of fans have been calling for an attacking midfielder to come in, including myself. We all know the quality that Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves have, but they operate best from deep. Leander Dendoncker is the other man in the middle of the park, but he’s a ball winner, he’s there to break up play. In a 3-4-3, it’s not so bad, but when we set up with a 5-3-2 formation, we won’t have a natural ‘number 10’, somebody in the hole, that roaming playmaker. Somebody to break lines and feed the front two. James Rodriguez has been linked with a move to Molineux. He would be the perfect player to come in and fill that role. Despite being a Jorge Mendes client and pretty much being guaranteed first team football, the pessimist in me thinks it would be too good to be true, but the optimist in me thinks we’ll secure European football for next season and that will be the thing that seals the deal. However, with Arsenal also believed to be interested in the Colombian and the likely event that there will be plenty of offers on the table, I’ve got a feeling that it could well be an ongoing thing across the summer. I’m just going to sit, wait and hope.
I think a centre back, a wing back and a striker will also be on the shopping list.
Looking through the players on the books of Gestifute, like a kid looking through the Argos catalogue before Christmas, I’d pick out Jose Sa, Ruben Dias, James Rodriguez and Carlos Vinícius. Sorry to any fans if they’re reading for mentioning it again, but if Norwich do get relegated, I’d like to see us go in for Max Aarons at wing back. Todd Cantwell is also a shout, if Mendes can’t work his magic on Rodriguez.
What is your favorite match you’ve been to (or watched)?
My favourite match is a tough one. I could go for victories over West Brom, Birmingham or Aston Villa. I could go for either the 2003 or 2019 4-3 win against Leicester. There’s always the play-off final. Then there’s wins against the likes of Man City, Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham. I could even go European.
I’m going to go for the 6-4 win against Rotherham back in 2014.
What a day. It was a real party atmosphere at Molineux. with promotion back to the Championship confirmed. All that was left was to beat Brentford to the title. It was never going to be an easy game, as Rotherham were in the play-offs, competing for a 3rd place finish with Leyton Orient and Preston.
Rotherham took the lead through Kieran Agard after 14 minutes, but their lead didn’t last long, as Nouha Dicko equalised 5 minutes later. Dicko scored again shortly after, with Edwards making it 3-1 to Wolves at half time.
Just after the hour mark, Agard scored again to increase the pressure. With 10 minutes left on the clock, Dicko completed his hat-trick, giving Wolves a 2 goal advantage again. 4-2. 4 minutes later, Joe Skarz kept the pressure on by scoring for the visitors and making it 4-3. 4 minutes after that, Agard followed Dicko in completing a hatrick. 4-4. 2 minutes left on the clock. In the 90th minute, Sam Ricketts scored his first goal for the club, making it 5-4. Given the afternoons events, nobody took the winning position for granted but Kevin McDonald made it 6-4 to Wolves in the 97th minute. A couple of minutes and another warning to fans on the pitch later, the final whistle went and Wolves extended their lead at the top to 6 points, with just 3 games left. .
It really was a game for the neutrals. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend finding it on Youtube.
What is your ideal starting XI?
My ideal starting eleven?
If you’re talking now, then it would be:
Willy Boly, Conor Coady, Romain Saiss
Matt Doherty, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Jonny Otto
Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota
If you’re talking from my lifetime, it’s probably unfair to full it with Fosun players, so I’ll do a pre-Fosun XI with:
Denis Irwin, Jody Craddock, Joleon Lescott, Lee Naylor
Michael Kightly, Dave Edwards, Paul Ince, Bakary Sako
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Steve Bull
Who are Wolves’ most exciting youngsters?
We’ve got some good young players at Wolves, with the likes of Pedro Neto, Ruben Vinagre and Morgan Gibbs-White all 20 years old and then there’s Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota, who are only 23.
If you look past them, we’ve got the likes of Bruno Jordao, Max Kilman, Oskar Buur, Taylor Perry, Owen Otasowie and Renat Dadashov in the U23s, who are on the fringes of the first team. Enzo Loiodice too, who has been brought in on loan from Dijon. We’ve got a good crop of youngsters at the club and Fosun are passionate about using the category one academy to develop players to go on to the first team.
One I’m really looking forward to watching progress is Luke Matheson. The 17 year old right back was brought in from Rochdale in January and sent back on loan for the rest of the season. I was surprised we signed him for as little as we did. The lad has got bags of potential and he seems like he’s at a maturity level above his age, having already played a lot of first team football. He scored at Old Trafford in the Carabao Cup in September and got an assist against Newcastle in the FA Cup in January. I’m willing to put my neck on the line and say that Matheson will go on to become an England regular.
In your eyes, who is Wolves’ fiercest rival and why?
The fiercest rival of Wolverhampton Wanderers? Some people might say Aston Villa, but they’d be naive to. It can only be them from down the road. West Bromwich Albion.
The Aston Villa rivalry has only really been a thing since their relegation to the Championship as far as I’m concerned. For me, it’s always been Wolves v West Brom and Aston Villa v Blues. Then you’ve got Walsall, who pipe up every so often to let us know that they’re still playing in the Football League.
Our last win against West Brom came at the end of the 2010/11 season, beating them 3-1 at home. They did the double over us the following season, winning 2-0 at the Hawthornes in October and then battering us 5-1 at Molineux in February, which was the final straw for Mick McCarthy. Steve Morgan sacked him following that. Every cup draw since, I’ve wanted to see us come up against the Baggies, but it hasn’t come up. It looks like the long wait may soon be over though, as they currently sit 2nd in the Championship. The only thing stopping a reunion would be if they were to bottle it. Will they? Maybe. Would I be bothered if they did? No.
Who is a player from your rival that you secretly admire and wish you had in your team?
There isn’t one player in that West Brom team I look at and think ” Yeah, I’d take him!” and that’s not just me being bitter or whatever. It’s true. So, I’d have to look at Aston Villa. On ability, I’d take Jack Grealish. He’s a class player and any Wolves fan that said he isn’t is in denial. He’d fit that number 10 role well. He just needs to sort himself out.
Where do you see Wolves in five years? What do you believe your clubs short/long term goals should be?
In five years time, I’d like to think that Wolves will be a solid ‘Top 6’ club, competing for Champions League football with Liverpool, Man City, Man United, Arsenal, Tottenham. I know Leicester have pushed, but I think we’ve got more financial clout to push for it. Let’s be honest, we’re not far off and we’ve still got plenty of building left to do. I just hope we’re seeing a Molineux redevelopment and not a move to a new ground.
Who is the most underrated/overrated player on your team?
He’s not overrated within the club or by the fans, but he doesn’t get noticed from the outside looking in. Romain Saiss. A solid player, who dropped back from centre midfield to play on the left side of the back three and he’s made that position his own. A great character in the dressing room to add.
I couldn’t give you an overrated player, as I feel everybody always plays to the best of their ability and Nuno settles for no less than that. No passengers.
If you could spend an hour with one player or coach (past/present), who would it be? And what would you ask them?
If I had the chance to spend some time with a player or a coach, it would have to Stan Cullis or Billy Wright, but I think I’d edge more towards Billy Wright. I would have to sit to down with the legend. I’d have all sorts to ask and discuss with him. Joining Wolves after initially being rejected for being too small, captaining the club during it’s greatest era, winning the First Division (x3), winning the FA Cup, becoming the first player to make 100 international appearances, that night against Honved, playing with the likes of Bert Williams and Ron Flowers, being managed by Stan Cullis. I could go on. I imagine that we’d be talking for quite a while. Everybody that I’ve met that had met Wright has spoken highly. A true gentleman, on and off the pitch.
Which player from your team do you think would survive the longest on a deserted island?
I think the man that would survive the longest on a desert island would be Adama Traore. Joao Moutinho is worth a look, given his intelligence, but I’ll give it to Adama on sheer beast mode.
How do you think the current season should be resolved? Should it be voided, resumed once the pandemic is over, or completed behind closed doors?
Everybody has their own opinion on what should happen with finishing the season. I read recently that a World Cup style system has been spoken about, taking place in the Midlands with all games played behind closed. That’s one way of doing it, I guess.
I had the discussion with a few fans on a video call yesterday. If the World Cup thing wasn’t to go ahead, it’s just a case of waiting for everything to get back to normal and we don’t know when that will be. There’s always the option of finishing this season off when the chance comes and then cancelling next season. It’s a tough one. I don’t envy the people that are responsible for making these decisions.
If you’re reading this and you’ve got an opinion on what should happen, get in touch.
What have you been doing during this quarantine?
As well as my broadcasting and writing work, I manage a pub, so I haven’t had any work on during the quarantine. I’ve managed to get my football fix in a few forms, as I’m sure many fans of the beautiful game have. Watching highlights from the season, classic matches, documentaries, etc. I’ve been playing plenty of Football Manager and FIFA too. I was disappointed at the last league game, a 0-0 draw against Brighton, but I would do anything to watch a bore draw right now. I’ll never take anything for granted again after this. I’m not going to ramble on about, because this isn’t Sky News, but I just want to take this opportunity to urge everybody to stay indoors unless neccessary and stay safe. The sooner everybody follows suit, the sooner this will be over. Think.
And finally, what are your predictions for next season’s Premier League?
Anybody that knows me will tell you that my predictions aren’t the best and my Bet365 account will back that up, but I’ll say that Liverpool win the Premier League again and retain the trophy. They’ve been brilliant this season. I said back in October that the league is theirs to lose and it looks like I got that one right. Look at how good they are now and then think that Klopp will strengthen again in the summer, it’s hard to look past them next season. It looks like Liverpool’s time has finally come.
I think Man City, Man United and Chelsea will be behind them, to complete the top 4. Then I’ll go with Arsenal and Wolves in 5th and 6th.
I think Norwich, Villa and Brighton will get relegated this season, so I’ll say Bournemouth, Leeds and West Brom will be relegated at the end of next season.