Conor Coady’s sole intention when he returned to his hotel room after one of the greatest days of his life was to relive it.
The joy on the Wolves captain’s face after his goal for England against Wales — his first from open play since he scored against Crawley in a League Cup fixture in August 2016 — and the way he beamed throughout post-match interviews was enough to cheer the most cynical of characters.
And when he walked into his room at England’s base at Pennyhill Park in the early hours of October 9, Coady switched on his tablet and watched the highlights. And again. And again.
Elation spread across the face of Conor Coady after scoring his first senior goal for England
The Liverpool-born defender says it is a moment he will remember for the rest of his life
He didn’t sleep a wink as he replayed the moment he turned in Kieran Trippier’s delivery from close range and by 7am he was on the phone to his wife, Amy, and three sons, Henri, five, Freddie, three, and Louie, one, to celebrate all over again.
Coady is still grinning broadly as he remembers that night at Wembley while speaking via Zoom from Compton, the Wolves training ground.
‘I never slept,’ he smiles. ‘Because of the Covid rules there was not much we could do other than go back to our rooms. My phone was going off the hook all night and I watched the goal back over and over.
‘It’s probably a bit sad but I don’t score too many and the feeling was just incredible. I wouldn’t have slept even without the messages but they kept me going all night.
Coady came through at his boyhood Liverpool, but knew he needed to leave in order to play
‘Before that, when we first got back to the team hotel we had something to eat and all the lads shook my hand. I never dreamed of doing something like that for my country and when it happened I was shocked by it — as you could probably see in my face. I keep all my shirts and I need to take this one to get it framed. At the moment they’re all piled up in my wardrobe.
‘Straight after the game I spoke to my wife on FaceTime when I was still in my kit at Wembley and she was in shock. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
‘The next morning she sent me a video of the kids watching the goal — they were jumping around the room, going bananas. When they rang me they were saying: “Dad, Dad, you scored!” They were as shocked as me!
‘It’s just a shame that with everything going on at the moment that they couldn’t be there, but to see their faces the next morning was a brilliant feeling. They love football, we’re out in the garden every night and they play on Saturdays. It was a moment of elation, that feeling when the ball hit the net.
‘I’d love for people to look at it and think, “Anything can happen if Conor can do that”, because it can. People I’ve known all my life looked at it and thought, “That’s amazing”. That was the best part for me.
Under Nuno Espirito Santo Coady has reshaped his game and reached the next level
‘I won’t ask the manager (Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo) to start going forward at corners, though. I enjoy organising and stopping counter-attacks — that’s my job and I’ll stick to it.’
Even the most disciplined athlete might have toasted an achievement like that with a glass of champagne. But 27-year-old Coady is teetotal.
‘I tried alcohol when I was younger and it never did anything for me,’ he explains. ‘I didn’t enjoy it, so why would I do it?
‘It helps me prepare better for matches and it’s something I’ll always stick to.’
Coady’s appearance record suggests it is working. He featured in 57 of Wolves’ 59 matches last season, has not missed a league game since September 30, 2017, when he was suspended for a Championship match against Burton Albion, and has played in 81 consecutive Premier League fixtures.
He has carried this level of dedication from his days as a young player at Liverpool, where Rodolfo Borrell — now part of Pep Guardiola’s backroom team at Manchester City — was a strong influence as Under-18 coach. Although he was a midfielder then, Coady took inspiration from Jamie Carragher as he fought to break through.
But he was not prepared to wait forever. After making two first-team appearances under Brendan Rodgers in the 2012-13 campaign, a successful loan spell at Sheffield United the following season convinced Coady he needed to leave Anfield. He joined Huddersfield in 2014 before moving to Wolves for £2.5million a year later.
Yet Coady never forgot the lessons he learned at Liverpool.
‘Jamie Carragher was always someone I looked up to as I’d grown up supporting Liverpool when he was part of those teams,’ he said. ‘Then when I got to Melwood he spoke to me most days, helped me on the pitch but also about how to look after myself off the pitch.
Coady says Jamie Carragher (right) remains his inspiration and the pair are still close friends
‘Since I left Liverpool he has always stayed in contact, been on the end of the phone for a chat whenever I need advice.
‘Both he and Steven Gerrard were huge — they never missed training and that’s something I keep with me now. I look at how good they were when I was growing up and I want to follow that example. If I miss a single training session, I’m devastated.
‘Luis Suarez was the same. Even the day after a game, which was meant to be a recovery day, he would insist on doing a full session. It’s inspirational for a young player.’
If Nuno is the driving force behind Wolves’ rise from mid-table Championship club, Coady is not far behind.
Along with Ruben Neves, Coady runs the dressing room, policing a strict fines system and ensuring team spirit — a fragile concept at any club — remains solid.
Coady and Portuguese ace Ruben Neves are the enforcers at Wolves and keeps things ticking
Most players live within a five-minute drive of Compton and before the pandemic, they would gather regularly at Neves’ apartment, where the Portuguese midfielder would cook while his team-mates played pool.
Coady has been at the forefront of the No Room for Racism campaign. He added: ‘When we were talking about it among the Premier League captains, it opened my eyes massively. It made me feel a bit bad that I never looked into it more growing up.
‘People’s background never made a difference to me so I never really opened my eyes to the struggles people were having. I understand it much more now. With the platform we have, if we can help people now it will benefit them in years to come.’