Development Coach Steve Weaver has highlighted a good achievement for both Wolves’ Under-21 squad and their Academy after the club’s youngsters booked their place in the Elite Stages of the competition.
Wolves have emerged from a tough group in the new Under-21s league to qualify for the top division in the New Year, testament to the Development squad and former Academy scholars who have enjoyed an impressive season so far.
Success has also taken place against the continuing backdrop of some of the club’s younger players furthering their experience on loan, with Leigh Griffiths, Jake Cassidy, Matt Doherty, Jamie Reckord, Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Johnny Gorman, Zeli Ismail, Sam Winnall and Aaron McCarey all going out to enjoy first team football elsewhere.
“We’re delighted,” said Weaver.
“It’s a big thing for us really, especially as we’ve been in a league with Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Fulham, and to get into the Elite group is huge credit to the players.
“The Premier League are really keen to ensure this competition becomes a big thing and so it’s a big draw.
“It’s not only important for the players, but it’s a big achievement for the academy.
“We nearly got close to winning the Under-18s League last season, and this is the same group of players.
“Hopefully we can achieve it year after year, but we might not get the chance again.
“All the clubs have got good players but at the start of the season we had the aim of trying to win it.
“We started really well but, as always happens when you have good performances, you start to lose players.
“We haven’t really been able to keep our team together, so the side that finished this part of the season off is almost like a second phase of the team.
“We’ve sort of scraped over the line because of the lads we’ve lost, but they have been plying their trade in the Football League on loan to be fair which is great.
“The onus has been on us to keep it going and this is a younger group who aren’t as mature so they’ve got a bit of growing to do.
“But if we’d have kept the first lot of players, you never know, we might have challenged for the title.
“They’re all good lads though and another good thing about it is we can still play lads such as David Davis and Anthony Forde.
“So we’re quietly pleased with the way things have gone and the lads have really bought into it as well.”
Fixtures for the Elite Stage will be announced in due course, but the success of the youngsters coming through the ranks has not only been seen with the team’s success.
With seven goals Liam McAlinden has been the leading scorer in Group C of the Under-21 League, while loanees Jake Cassidy and Leigh Griffiths leading marksmen in League One and the Scottish Premier League respectively.
For Weaver it has also been about trying to mirror the playing style of the first team, an ambition which has always been at the club but has been re-emphasised by boss Ståle Solbakken.
And equally as important as ensuring the players have the best possible chance to make a senior breakthrough in the manner of the likes of Davis and Forde over the last 12 months.
“It’s a great learning curve for the kids,” added Weaver.
“I know the word development gets bandied around a lot, but we just said we wanted to try to threaten for the title.
“Now we want to do as well as we can in the next stage, and hopefully we can.
“We’ve got Dave and Fordey in the first-team squad now and hopefully one or two of these will come through too.
“All I keep saying to them is ‘if you keep doing it, you just never know’.
“It might not be that they’re good enough, but if not, someone else will want them.
“We try to stress to the lads the importance of making a career out of it.
“Although this is a younger group, hopefully one or two from this group might threaten to break through.
“This younger group just need to be a bit mentally stronger, but that will come.”