Much has been made of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ exploits this season, and rightly so. The club have been almost unstoppable, especially of late, opening up a four-point lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship.
A vast array of international talent has helped them on their way, with the likes of Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves and Leo Bonatini among those catching the eye. It’s fair to say, perhaps, that the name of Barry Douglas is slightly less exotic than that trio. However, he is another to have made a huge impact after jetting in from foreign shores.
The Scot arrived at the club after spells in Poland and Turkey, and has impressed under new boss Nuno Espirito Santo. He was recently nominated for November’s Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month, a period which saw him grab three assists and one goal as Wolves embarked on a perfect month.
A new challenge for Douglas, Nuno, the aforementioned trio, and many more at Molineux. The league leaders are just seven points shy of last season’s tally, which saw them finish 14th. It’s been a terrific turnaround, but the defender saw the potential ahead of his summer move.
“The project, a kind of transition period, really appealed to me,” said Douglas, when asked what persuaded him to return to British shores. “The ambitions for the club and how we were going to play was a big factor, knowing that we were going to get the ball down regardless of who we come up against. It suits my style and you can see that with how well I’m playing.
“It’s attention to detail with Nuno, everything we do has a purpose. Training sessions, the way he sets things up, the way he gives us information. We’re more tactically resolute than perhaps Wolves have been in recent years, and if we keep things tight at the back then we have the quality going forward to punish teams. It’s a combined effort, not just one area of the pitch.
“November was a good month, it was nice to be involved in the goals and assists but the biggest thing for me and for everyone was the run that we went on. It shows where we want to be and long may it continue. We fancy our chances every game, and we know we can beat anyone.”
Born in Glasgow, Douglas spent his early career with Queens Park, before making the switch to Dundee United in 2010. It was there, albeit with a touch of good fortune about it, where he was spotted during a Lech Poznan scouting mission, and he moved to the Polish outfit in 2013.
With one Ekstraklasa title, a Polish SuperCup and a handful of Champions League appearances under his belt, the left-back was on his travels again, this time to Konyaspor in Turkey. Again, Douglas enjoyed success, helping to bring the club a first Turkish Cup title in their 95-year history.
“It was about being in the wrong place at the right time,” he explained, reflecting on the approach from Lech Poznan. “They were watching Johnny Russell at the time and I was on a good run of form, so they wanted to take me over there. I went over, was really impressed and thought ‘do you know what? I want to give this a go.’ There’s a big stereotype that British players can’t go abroad and succeed. I wanted to do it for myself as much as prove everyone else wrong.
“It was mentally challenging but, apart from injuring myself in my first training session, we settled really well. I couldn’t have done it without my wife, she made everything easier for me to just focus on football. If everything’s happy at home then you can play that on to the park.
“I was already used to a big difference going from Glasgow to Poznan, but then to Konya — probably the most religious city in Turkey — was a bit of a culture shock. We enjoyed the city and seeing places we would never normally see, it was nice to experience new cultures and new languages, we just embraced it.”
Settling into a new environment has its difficulties, but Douglas is proof that it can be done, and he’s now playing the opposite role, helping Wolves’ international imports embed into the British lifestyle.
Any lingering clichés of ‘can they do it on a cold midweek night up north?’ have swiftly been put to bed. Wolves have won seven and drawn one of their last eight games as the temperatures have cooled, and there’s more to follow with three further fixtures before 2017 comes to a close.
It’s a busy period for a footballer in the EFL, and Wolves’ number three is relishing the test after having spent the last few Christmases with his feet up.
“Everyone’s been brilliant, there are no big egos in the squad, the guys that were here previously welcomed everyone and made them feel at home straight away. You just need to look at the way we play on the park to see what a close-knit group we’ve got.
“Portuguese, Brazilian, Scottish… they’re all the same kind of style! If you look at some of the games that have been more of a battle, the foreign guys don’t shy away from it. They’ve got the tenacious side that you need on the cold winter nights.
“It wasn’t as hectic as this abroad, I used to get the winter breaks, but it’s back to the Dundee United days where there are games coming thick and fast. I’m looking forward to it — that’s why we do what we do, to play football, and I’m enjoying every minute.”