383 days, 59 games and 30,000 miles: Wolves’ epic season that started on July 25 last year finally draws to a close after Europa League exit to Sevilla in an incredible feat of fitness and stamina
- Wolves’ competitive season started in Europa qualifiers back on July 25, 2019
- It finally came to an end 383 days and 59 games later with defeat to Sevilla
- Their cross-continental odyssey has seen them rack up 18,756 miles in total
- Domestic games takes this closer to 30,000 miles travelled for the season
- 11 of the 14 players who started season against Crusaders also played Sevilla
- Nuno Espirito Santo has stuck to a small but trusted core group of players
Well, that was epic. Wolves’ remarkable season finally came to an end on Tuesday night amid the deflation of a late header that saw them crash out of the Europa League.
But once the immediate disappointment subsides, Nuno Espirito Santo and his players can reflect with awe at their sheer stamina during one of the longest seasons any football team has ever embarked upon.
Their extraordinary campaign spanned 383 days from the giddy evening of July 25, 2019 when 29,708 spectators packed Molineux to see them play a qualifier against Crusaders on their return to Europe after 39 years to Tuesday night’s quarter-final loss to Sevilla in front of empty stands.
Wolves started their season with a Europa League qualifier against Crusaders on July 25, 2019
It finally ended with the disappointment of quarter-final defeat to Sevilla on Tuesday night
Much has changed in the world in the meantime with the Covid-19 pandemic puncturing a three-month break in the middle of an unprecedented season.
But at least football’s return in drastically changed environments ensured the Molineux club wouldn’t be left wondering what might have been.
They managed to overcome Olympiacos in the last-16 but Sevilla ultimately proved a bridge too far on a sweltering night in Duisburg, Germany.
Their Europa League journey, which began in the second qualifying round, has been a cross-continental odyssey taking them from the Portuguese city of Braga in the west to the Armenian capital Yerevan in the east.
In all, Wolves have racked up 18,756 air miles in the Europa League and pushing 30,000 when domestic competition is included as well.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team have played 59 competitive games in a season spanning 383 days
Matt Doherty scores for Wolves in their 4-0 win over Armenian side FC Pyunik in qualifying
The players celebrate a goal by Romain Saiss in the Play-off Round victory over Torino of Italy
WOLVES’ AIR MILES
Round trips from Wolverhampton for Europa League games
Belfast vs Crusaders – 416 miles
Yerevan vs Pyunik – 4,668
Turin vs Torino – 1,366
Istanbul vs Besiktas – 3,312
Bratislava vs Slovan 1,796
Braga vs Braga – 1,634
Barcelona vs Espanyol – 1,598
Athens vs Olympiacos – 3,194
Duisburg vs Sevilla – 772
TOTAL 18,756 MILES
And let’s not forget that before all that, they made an 11,000-mile round trip to China to compete in the Premier League Asia Trophy in late July last year.
They played 17 European fixtures as part of 59 in all competitions but what is remarkable is how few players Nuno deployed.
Eleven of the 14 who played against Crusaders also played against Sevilla in a tremendous testament to their stamina and fitness.
Wolves used 21 players in their 38 Premier League games – the fewest in the league – and that rises only to 25 in the Europa League despite the pre-season qualifiers offering the chance to field fringe or youth players.
Compare this with Manchester United, who have used 37 different players in their Europa campaign.
But Nuno’s small but tightly-knit group obviously has its advantages with some memorable results achieved along the way like 4-0 wins over Besiktas and Espanyol plus home and away successes over Torino in the Play-off Round.
And few embody this more than their captain Conor Coady, who has played every minute of every Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup match this season – skipping only two Carabao Cup games – in a muscle-aching 5,130 minutes.
Add in the gruelling travel Wolves have done this season – a 4,668-mile round trip to Yerevan and 3,312 mile jaunt to Istanbul the longest since their China visit – there may be mixed emotions about their failure to qualify for Europe again next season.
Willy Boly celebrates scoring Wolves’ winner away to Besiktas in the group stage in October
It was off to Slovakia in late October to play Slovan Bratislava, resulting in a 2-1 victory
Wolves played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Braga in the pouring Portuguese rain
They finished seventh in the Premier League and now their Europa League exit means they’ll miss out, which at least will save the legs next season.
That is especially important given the ridiculously tight turnaround to the 2020-21 campaign, with the new Premier League beginning in a month.
For the fans who followed Wolves on each step of their European epic – as far as coronavirus allowed – there have been memories created to last a lifetime.
A hardy 48 of them made the journey to Armenia last August and were each sent a letter of appreciation from Coady for their efforts.
Now Coady and his team-mates can finally put their feet up a little while after the season to end all seasons.
Nuno salutes the travelling fans at Espanyol after Wolves won their round of 32 encounter
The last-16 tie against Olympiacos in Greece was played out behind closed doors in March
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