Jerry Gill says Wolves Academy need to learn from the disappointment of the FA Youth Cup exit to Swansea – and channel that into a successful rest of the season.
The Under-18s were below par in their 2-1 defeat to Swansea at the third round stage, and Gill is now looking for a reaction in the fixtures which follow when they return after their Christmas break.
“It was really disappointing,” said the coach, who had guided Wolves to the fifth round stage last season.
“Credit to Swansea, they deserved to win the game on the night.
“We didn’t do enough in the 90 minutes to get a result and we have to be open and honest about that.
“I was disappointed in our start to the game – we lacked the energy we normally have.
“We wanted to replicate the performance we showed against Liverpool at Molineux but we were nowhere that standard with our energy, drive, desire, work ethic or leadership.
“They are the big things we try and build our team around and we lacked that at Swansea.
“We deservedly went behind in the game and after that there wasn’t a big reaction like we have seen before.
“It took until we went 2-0 down to suddenly start to respond and our back line and midfield became more aggressive, we got on the front foot and started to play forward a but earlier.
“We were winning second balls for the first time, and it was almost like it was a reactive performance in the first hour rather than a proactive one.
“The drive was coming from the coaching staff rather than the players in the front hour which was very unlike our lads.
“People will question whether it was nerves or the occasion and there was a strange feel about the game.
“I don’t know whether that was because it was at the training ground rather than a stadium but that is not something we will use as an excuse.
“Swansea looked like they wanted the game more than us which is a disappointing thing for me to say.”
A goal in each half from Liam Cullen, the first a penalty, put the Swans in control of the game before Brad Carr pulled a goal back on 72 minutes.
Jordan Allan almost capped a lively substitute’s performance with a late equaliser although an honest Gill acknowledged it would probably have been more than Wolves deserved.
“There just weren’t enough good performances,” he added.
“Brad Carr comes out with a lot of credit for his energy and a good goal and Rory Brown played well in goal.
“But I am looking around after that and there was not a lot else.
“Jordan Allan did react well when he went on from the bench.
“He set up the goal for Brad and then had a one-on-one chance late on when the keeper made a save.
“He went on and made a difference and started bumping some of the centre halves.
“But even though we only had three second years starting the game, I am very disappointed.
“Hopefully there is enough in there that the lads can learn from.
“The FA Youth Cup is about winning, and if any point the lads weren’t feeling disappointed or upset with that performance then they are in the wrong game.
“They have to come out now and have a focus on what they want for the rest of the season.
“There is still a long way to go and a lot to play for.”
But if there was a big consolation for Gill last weekend, and indeed everyone associated with the Academy, it came with the full league debut made by Connor Ronan.
Ronan, who moved between the Under-18 and Under-23 groups last season, came on in the closing stages of the 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
“There is also a bigger picture here that I always talk about and we all talk about as a staff,” says Gill.
“And the day after our disappointment, Connor Ronan goes out and makes his debut for the first team.
“That is the sort of great example which the lads need to follow.
“We had Connor for parts of last season and Scott (Sellars) has gone on and done a really good job with him to get him where he is.
“As a young man he has been exceptional to work with and I think his parents have been very supportive of what we do in the Academy.
“There were spells last year when Connor came back to us for spells having been with the Under-23s.
“And that helped him get his performance levels back up and he then moved up again.
“He was part of the team that went to Everton and won 8-0 with our Under-18s and was in the FA Youth Cup team as well.
“He has now gone on to make his first team debut.
“The boys have to realise if they come through and do things properly then the gaffer is going to give them a chance if they can prove they are good enough.
“And that is what we as an Academy are judged on.
“We were probably never going to win the FA Youth Cup with the young team we had, and we were also missing players like Niall Ennis and Austin Samuels with injury.
“But we certainly felt like we were good enough to have a run in it.
“In football careers you are going to have a lot more lows than highs – that is how it happens.
“It is how you handle the lows.
“The lads have to pick themselves up now and that is the sort of thing which Connor has done when he has had a dip and picked himself up and gone again.
“He is a gifted player who has the talent to back up that attitude and application as well.
“He wants to manage himself properly around the football club and those are the sort of players who have careers in the game.
“Hopefully we have got a few more Connor Ronan’s to come through.”
*Wolves Academy are playing a behind-closed-doors friendly against Shanghai SIPG at Compton Park today. Details will follow the game.