How could Wolves replace injured Neto?

Wolves expert view graphic
Wolves expert view graphic

Mike Taylor, BBC Radio WM

Not quite the shot heard round the world, but the snap heard all over Wolverhampton – or so we thought, when Pedro Neto’s sprint towards the Newcastle penalty area ended with him grabbing his thigh, deep into the second half on Saturday night.

If the instant diagnosis of a gasp from all those present was correct, and his hamstring did give way, there will be clear consequences - not just for the Newcastle game but a large part of Wolves’ season.

The incident occurred with Wolves feeling like the favourites for the first time. It broke the spell in the stadium, and you felt that – understandably – nobody’s mind was quite on the task in the same way after Neto was carried from the scene.

Happily, Gary O’Neil’s initial hope that the damage might not be quite as bad as it first seemed was backed up by Neto himself, suggesting on social media that he might be back in a couple of weeks.

However many games he misses – and you would understand if Wolves take great care not to rush him back – covering his absence may not be as simple as just plugging someone in and may change the roles of other players.

Neto has been the key attacking outlet, both a threat and a deterrent, daring opponents to take their eyes off him. He has also given Wolves and their fans confidence that even when under pressure, they can always respond.

It is too much to say that their whole set-up has been focused on Neto, but he has been the attacking route they have turned to most frequently.

The nearest replacement may be Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, whose explosive power over short distances caught the eye in his debut against Liverpool, until he tired. However, he has not featured since his dismissal at Luton on 23 September as that absence through suspension was extended by a calf injury.

After recent games, there is every reason to expect that O’Neil will find a creative method of solving the problem but, if it requires significant rearrangement, it will only underline Neto's importance.

His joyful creativity has been the key talking point of Wolves season so far, even more so than VAR decisions. But let’s not mention those.

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