Jerry Gill was delighted with the Academy Under-18s character and performance as they hit back from a two goal half time deficit to win Saturday’s local derby with West Bromwich Albion.
Having been the better side in the first half Wolves found themselves adrift thanks to conceding two poor goals in the first period, but hit back in spectacular fashion in the second half.
Ryan Giles started the comeback with a fine individual effort, Niall Ennis headed the equaliser as full time approached, and there was still time for 15-year-old Taylor Perry to fire home a superb long-distance winner in the fourth minute of added time.
“It is always nice to win a local derby and it has to mean something to the Under-18s,” said Gill.
“Apart from the Under-23s, it as close to the edge of first team football that the lads get.
“We built the game up in the week to say it was a local derby and there were bragging rights at stake.
“Fans always want to see their team beat their local rivals and it is important to us as a staff to measure ourselves against the local teams as an Academy.
“Some of the first team staff saw part of the game as they were at the training ground for their pre-match meal and Kevin Thelwell and a lot of the Academy staff were watching.
“There were a lot of other people watching as well and it creates that pressure environment which is what we want for the players.
“It was a really good result but the performance level was fantastic as well.
“We were 2-0 down at half time and were all in there scratching our heads.
“That was down to a bit of poor defending but our general play had been fantastic.
“Niall (Ennis) had hit the post and we had produced plenty of other chances too but just hadn’t been able to take them.
“The message to the lads was to keep believing and they would get something from the game – and they did.
“We tweaked the team a little bit at half time but nothing too major and just told them to go out and keep that belief and the game would turn.
“We knew we would still be able to dominate the ball and still create chances and just had to be ruthless at both ends of the pitch.
“The next goal was always going to be key and we got it through Ryan Giles with an excellent individual goal.
“That moment got the players going and gave them that belief that they could get something from the game.
“We always had the momentum but it maybe just changed their mindset and it looked like we were going to go on and get something – maybe not a win, but certainly something.
“Niall then got the equaliser with a header late on and even though there wasn’t much time left, I remember telling the players we could still win it.
“And the best moment of the game was saved for Taylor Perry, right at the end, when he won it with a superb strike.
“He is a 15-year-old, scoring a spectacular winner at the end of a big derby game, and that’s another sign of how we try and get our players through.
“I have had no hesitation in playing him in the Under-18s but we have had to take him out at certain times.
“It is important that he is benefitting when he plays Under-18s football, and he certainly did on Saturday.
“In the 94th minute he has picked the ball up 25 yards out and hit a shot into the top corner.
“There was footage of me celebrating on the touchline and I said to the staff – if we can’t enjoy a moment like that after all the hard work we have put in then we are not in the game for the right reasons.
“Taylor works ever so hard and needs to carry on doing that and maintaining that mentality over the coming years.
“It is a moment that we will remember, and he will remember, and something he has to build on now.”
The victory provided the perfect response to a disappointing defeat at Newcastle the previous weekend, which the Under-18s followed with a friendly against a senior non-league side the following Monday.
“We are cranking up the demands on the players this season,” Gill explained.
“We are adding in fixtures against non league teams at different times, and last Monday – having played Newcastle on the Saturday – the lads went to play against Solihull Moors senior team.
“We got a lot of rewards from that evening in terms of how the lads handled it mentally and physically.
“Some players realised they could play two games in a short space of time and meet the physical demands, and also the mental demands of playing against men.
“I think that really helped in the build up to the game.
“Having conceded four goals at Newcastle in the last game, and then 2-0 down to your local rivals at half time, as a young lad in that dressing room – with a lot of people watching – that is a tough situation.
“But they went out and responded.
“Forget the tactical tweaks and any changes that we made, it was about character, and the lads showed that they have that in abundance.”
Saturday’s scheduled fixture with Manchester City has been postponed due to City’s international call-ups, but a friendly has been arranged with Oxford United to fill the breach.