That was the overwhelming vibe of Nuno’s press conference on Saturday. The Wolves manager had just witnessed his side’s third defeat in three games. Questions about a promising debutant were always likely to be met be with bluster.
“It’s what we expect from all the players when they come off the bench” waved the Portuguese when asked about the glistening performance of Morgan Gibbs-White.
When the pain from the Spurs defeat subsides, however, Nuno will allow himself a moment of wonder at what Molyneux witnessed in that 3-2 defeat. In a magical half-hour, the 18-year-old demonstrated all of his immense potential.
With sixty-one minutes gone on Saturday, Wolves were buried. Sucker punches from Erik Lamela and Lucas had laid the foundation for Harry Kane’s first goal in a month. The atmosphere in the Black Country was deathly.
Then Joao Moutinho was brought off, replaced by a man who has already won the biggest trophy in the world. Well, at under-17 level anyway.
Gibbs-White had been a crucial part of the squad that went all the way in India last year, but he largely struggled for the limelight alongside headliners like Phil Foden and Rhian Brewster. Followers of that youthful conquest might have been aware then of his vision and technique. Most, however, had their eyes opened on Saturday.
Combining the unruffled class of Tom Huddlestone with the driving energy of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs-White energised Wolves almost single-handedly. He recycled possession intelligently, whilst turning time and again towards Tottenham’s brittle defence, probing for an opening.
Eventually he found one, threading a sumptuous pass into Helder Costa as the visitors’ backline blinked on incredulously. The Portuguese botched the opportunity, but it was almost an afterthought as applause rippled spontaneously throughout the galvanised crowd.
Perhaps more than any other nation, England has a propensity to over-hype its young talents. For every Wayne Rooney, there is a Theo Walcott, a Michael Johnson or David Bentley. Despite the buzz and frothing, no serious commentator is suggesting that Gibbs-White’s calibre is assured after just one half of football.
His performance against Spurs was promising, but that’s all it is; promise. A silly yellow card is a helpful reminder that he must bridge his fearless quality with a cool-head.
He is unlikely, too, to face a midfield as generous at the one Mauricio Pochettino provided him at Molyneux. Harry Winks, the man facing Gibbs-White for most of the game on Saturday, is still labouring under the expectations of his own prodigious start as a professional. Mousa Dembélé, meanwhile, is struggling badly.
Nevertheless, Nuno will be encouraged by the youngster’s performance, particularly as Moutinho’s aging legs show early signs of fatigue. Gibbs-White will prove a useful deputy for the former Porto man, battling alongside big-money signing Leander Dendoncker and Roman Saiss for a starting berth. Ruben Neves remains Wolves’ most potent asset, but he too should benefit from a sharing of the creative burden.
After a difficult trip to Arsenal on Sunday, Wolves will march into ties against Huddersfield and Cardiff. Nuno would do well to test Gibbs-White in either of these fixtures; both are eminently winnable, and both are likely to be harem-scarem battles of wills. Perform here, and Wolves fans can start to believe they have a massive talent on their hands. Until then, they can savour this most sizzling of debuts.