Julen Lopetegui claimed he could write a book on refereeing howlers that have cost Wolves – but has decided to begin a fresh chapter… the Spaniard knows his players must focus on what they can control ahead of a crunch Nottingham Forest clash
- Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui plans to put a raft of refereeing errors behind him
- Despite earlier apologies, the team still ended up on the wrong side of VAR calls
- Wolves face a season-defining test at Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon
Julen Lopetegui said he could write a book of the refereeing howlers his team have suffered this season but the Wolves boss has decided it is time to begin a fresh chapter.
As they prepared for a potentially season-defining match at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, Lopetegui called a meeting with his players at their training ground at Compton, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton.
Wolves could not be blamed for feeling the world is against them. They were on the wrong end of game-changing VAR calls in the defeats by Newcastle and Leeds before the international break, and were already frustrated with the officials for decisions in Cup matches against Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Referees’ chief Howard Webb spent 90 minutes with Lopetegui at Compton in January and has apologised more than once to the Spaniard for blunders in Wolves games.
After Leeds’ 4-2 win at Molineux on March 18, coach Edu Rubio and club secretary Matt Wild doorstepped Michael Salisbury after watching Jonny Otto and Matheus Nunes sent off, though Nunes’ red card was overturned on appeal.
Julen Lopetegui says he will put his anger at refereeing mistakes against Wolves behind him
Howard Webb apologised to Lopetegui for refereeing mistakes in January, but more followed
However, Lopetegui has determined that Wolves must wipe the slate clean. He believes his team will have a better chance of staying in the top flight if they forget the perceived injustices of the past and simply concentrate on what is ahead of them.
There is a feeling in the game that Wolves’ manner in matches – Lopetegui and captain Ruben Neves can be particularly demonstrative when they feel a decision is wrong – can count against them. It will be interesting to see if there is any change in their behaviour at the City Ground, scene of one of Wolves’ most volatile matches this season.
The club were fined £45,000 for their part in the brawl that followed Forest’s win on penalties in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, when ex-Wolves man Morgan Gibbs-White celebrated provocatively in front of the away fans, infuriating his former team-mates.
Lopetegui was labelled ‘unprofessional’ for approaching Gibbs-White while forward Matheus Cunha was also reprimanded for his role in the scuffle. Now Wolves return for a far more important fixture – they are three points above the relegation zone, with Forest one point below them – and they can ill afford any distractions.
‘Maybe all of us can do better for sure,’ acknowledged Lopetegui. ‘Each one of us chooses which way to live our life and do our job, of course.
‘All of us can improve, for sure, me too. But it’s important to be yourself – always on the pitch, and as coaches off it, while respecting the opponent.
Lopetegui’s Wolves face a season-defining match against Nottingham Forest on Sunday
‘I must manage or translate my feelings – that’s always my thinking, because it’s better for my team.
‘The most important thing is to respect the referee, respect the opponent, always. I warn my players to show the passion, feel the passion, but to always try to be calm and balanced.
‘[Refereeing decisions] are not in our control and yes, I have spoken to the players. We have put our focus into how we’re going to defend, how we’re going to play, how we’re going to press. These are the things we can manage.’
It feels like the right approach from Lopetegui. Let’s see if he can maintain it after the first controversial call against Forest.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk