Thanks, Roman | Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.

Never one to dodge a tackle, as his disciplinary record will show, and a near-constant presence in gold and black over the last five years, his coaches, teammates and supporters always knew the Moroccan captain was someone they could trust to give 100 percent in every situation.

Case in point: the night of Friday the 30ththe March 2018.

The Wolves were visiting the Northeast and Riverside Stadium. Despite starting in good spirits and building a two-goal lead before the break thanks to Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro, the second 45 minutes were the first signs of a championship title fight that was beginning to falter.

A red card for Saiss’s midfield partner Ruben Neves in the 56th minute was followed by one for right-back Matt Doherty a quarter of an hour later.

The wolves were down to nine men and clinging to each other with fingertips, but Saiss climbed up, fresh back from duty in Morocco on the other side of the world and recovering from a bout of fever and illness.

The iconic image of the then midfielder lying on the ground, having assumed the role of three players for almost half an hour to fend off Boro’s attacks, will go down in Wolves history.

Wave after wave of redshirt attacks flooded the Wolves penalty area, with Saiss doing his best to hand possession to his team. And although Patrick Bamford was able to find the net in the fourth minute of added time, Saiss and his teammates had done enough to earn three vital points that would go a long way towards securing the second-tier title.

The 32-year-old has given Wolves so many memorable moments in his six years wearing the famous gold jersey and despite being the prankster of the pack in the locker room and an extremely popular member of the team, Saiss can change. the perspective of him relaxed and smiling to that of steely determination in the blink of an eye.

Saiss may have been underutilized by Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert, starting just 19 times during his debut Championship season, but he needn’t have worried as he was sure to make up for lost time when Nuno Espirito Santo arrived.

The following season with the Portuguese saw Saiss installed as partner in midfield for the then-record signing of Neves as Wolves clinched the Championship title.

After his heroic performance at Riverside, Saiss had become one of the first names in the squad and a new idol was created for those in the stands.

Although the writing was on the wall when the experienced Joao Moutinho arrived the following summer and secured the starting spot previously held by Saiss, the Moroccan once again showed his fighting spirit to remain in the starting eleven.

A move down the pitch into defence, a position he was familiar with having played at the back for his country, could not have gone better as he was reborn as a tough Premier League centre-back.

What followed for Saiss were 26 appearances and two goals in all competitions as Wolves ended their inaugural campaign in the top flight for six years by securing Europa League qualification.

The first of those two goals in the 2018/19 season continued Saiss’ habit of regularly finding the back of the net at Christmas. In fact, he had a streak of five straight Decembers where he found his name on the Wolves’ minutes.

He started this run last season, with the Boxing Day crack at Millwall, before his equalizing goal at Fulham exactly a year later in his first Premier League season. His next December goal came on the 21St. in 2019 away to Norwich in a 2-1 win, and in the 2020/21 season he scored in the 27ththe to earn a point against Spurs at Molineux.

However, the best of his goals in December was reserved for the last campaign. Wolves had traveled to the Amex Stadium in Brighton without a goal in their previous four Premier League games, although they had only conceded two goals in the process.

But when Neves lifted a ball over the Seagulls defense that no one else on the pitch believed was in place apart from Saiss, he was greatly relieved to see the Moroccan latch onto the winger and hit the sweetest volley. . the bottom corner.

And while the striker may have been a surprise, especially given the quality of a great centre-back’s shot, with his history of festive finishing, it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

The second-longest-serving player on the Wolves squad overcame a battle with Ryan Bennett to clinch one of three centre-back positions to start his second season in the top flight, playing 49 times as his team competed in four competitions. .

A back three of Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Saiss looked to be indestructible, with the trio producing some of the best returns from a Wolves defensive unit in the club’s short Premier League history. Conceding just 40 goals that season, the team was beginning to be known in the football world for its tenacity at the back, and Saiss played a huge part in that.

There haven’t been many better team players than Saiss over the last six years at Molineux, either. The versatility he has shown season after season has kept him in good stead during his Wolves career, being a reliable pair of hands wherever he is used on the field.

None other than during a Covid-hit campaign last season when Nuno opted to try Saiss at left-back following injuries to his other three options at that position.

But it wouldn’t be like Saiss to turn up his nose at a challenge. Instead, he stuck to his task and gave the role a 100 percent commitment.

During a season in which Wolves collected just 45 points, seven of them came in the three games in which he was called upon to play out of position, helping his team to 1-0 wins over Fulham and Leeds United. as well as draw 1-1. at home against Newcastle.

Versatility, giving it his all for the jersey and never giving up attitude is something that has endeared him to generations of Wolves fans. The only thing the fans ask of their players is that they give their best on the pitch, and Saiss is someone who has that character in spades.

An entertainer off the pitch, a fighter on it. With cult hero status on the bag, the man himself sums up his Wolves career better than anyone:

“Perhaps I am not the best player in this club or the best player in the history of the club, but I would like to be remembered as a player who gives everything for this club and for our fans.”

You definitely will, Romain. His contribution will never be forgotten.

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