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Feature: Preparing The Groundwork


08:35 1st June 2013

Foundations in place for Kenny's arrival

Four weeks has now elapsed since Wolves rounded off the season with defeat at Brighton.

But for the club’s Recruitment department, it has very much been business as usual since the result which condemned the team to a second successive relegation.

For Head of Recruitment Stuart Webber, technical recruitment officer Chris Badlan and the network of scouts out and about at home and abroad, there have still been games to watch, reports to file and all manner of background information compiled.

And, as Webber explains, it’s all in pursuit of the collective aim of providing new Head Coach Kenny Jackett, Head of Football Development and Recruitment Kevin Thelwell and the club’s Board with a list of potential targets from which to revamp the squad ahead of the new season.

Webber explains:  “From our side of things with recruitment, as soon as we knew which league we were going to be in next season that was the time when we could really narrow down our targets.

“From the time I joined the club in January we were always hoping to be looking at a ‘Plan A’ list of targets, players who would be able to help the team get back to the Premier League.

“But with relegation we have had to reflect and look more closely at ‘Plan B’ in terms of those targets we have been assessing who can first of all get us back into the Championship.

“As soon as that last ball was kicked we started narrowing that list down.

“That meant that when the new Head Coach arrived – as Kenny has now done -  the discussions can take place about all the targets knowing that the due diligence has been done in terms of all the relevant background information, and the club will be able to move quickly to try and add players to the squad.

“We can look at all the background such as how targets may fit in with the current squad and the potential finance involved and then present that to Kenny and Kevin, who will then work with Jez and the Board to try and bring in the players that the club want.

“It is worth pointing out that recruitment is very much an ongoing process – it is something we are looking at and working on every single day.

“As well as looking at the short term and targets for this summer, we are also working towards next summer and beyond, doing the groundwork for players we would be aiming for then.

“That long term focus is part of our wider scope in terms of what we are trying to develop looking at the future.”

Indeed that long term focus brings in two separate – and vastly contrasting - strands which the recruitment team are also working on this summer.

The club’s Academy and utilisation of the Foreign Market may not be of any significant benefit for the 2013/14 season in npower League One, but a more streamlined and intensive operation in those areas should at least stand Wolves in good stead for the future.

“We are working very hard behind the scenes to improve our knowledge of the foreign market,” says Webber.

“Are the club going to be signing a lot of foreign players in League One? Probably not.

“However, the work in that area cannot stop because we are in League One.

“We have to be ready so that hopefully when we get back in the Championship, we are in good shape and ready to build a squad to get back into the Premier League with good knowledge of overseas players who are available.

“And that then applies again if we do get back to the Premier League in terms of being aware of players who can then make us better at that level as well.”

Webber continues:  “Within the long term strategy is the Academy recruitment and that’s something we are looking at this summer.

“With the new structure we want to get it more in line with what we are doing at first team level because it has been separate in the past.

“We want to bring the Academy alongside with what we are doing with the first team so there is a complete club approach from the first team down to the eight, nine ten year-olds when they first come into the club.

“That will make sure that we are both utilising the resources at our disposal and also giving ourselves the best chance of getting the best players we can for the club.

“We are a Category One Academy, with means we are fishing in the pond with Manchester United, Liverpool and other elite clubs at that level.

“And we still very much believe that we can be a Premier League football club again.

“Because of that we have to keep our standards high and keep that mindset going and thinking big.

“It might seem a way off having just been relegated to League One, and we know that next season is going to be a difficult one, but we have to do all this work now because if we don’t do anything until we find ourselves there then we will have problems.

“So while we are always ready and able to act in the short term by identifying targets for the present day, we have also got a big eye on what is happening for the long term health of the club.

“League One is going to be tough, there is no doubt about that, but from a recruitment point of view we have to think positively and is it our job to make sure we are ready to go when we do get promoted in order to then push on again.

“What we can’t have is a mentality that we won’t look at that now and just worry about it when we get there – we have to make sure that when we get to where we want to be we are ready and have identified the targets and that Kenny and Kevin have watched them.

“We have to be comfortable that we are looking at the right players to take the club forward.”

One thing that Wolves will continue to do as they look for fresh talent to take into a new challenge in League One is as glean as much information as possible about potential targets.

And that’s not just to mean their vital statistics when it comes to games, goals, injuries and disciplinary history, but also character references from those who know them best, in order to build up a complete picture.

“For every player that we sign, whether it be an Academy player at the age of 13 or a first team player who has cost money,  we will know everything we can about them before the deal,” says Webber.

“We produce an extensive dossier of information on every player packed with information about their statistics and any injury issues but we will also check on their backgrounds.

“We meet the player before they come in and look at how they have conducted themselves in their personal lives as well as getting references from people who have worked with them in the past.

“When you are going to play for a club like Wolves, it’s not just about performing on the pitch but also being a positive ambassador for the club as well and showing the club in a good light.

“And the thinking behind trying to get the Academy in line with first team level is that if we are following a player at 14, we may end up signing them at 18 or 19 and by that stage have five years of information of them which means we have a picture built up of that player and already know him quite well.

“It’s not like they will suddenly appear on the radar, and then we have to make a decision.”

Webber continues: “We are looking for younger players with a point to prove, not necessarily those who have been there and done it but players who are desperate to have an opportunity with a club like Wolves.

“And also desperate not just to play in League One but go on and play at a higher level as well.

“If you look at teams like Norwich and Southampton you can appreciate that this can work.

“There are players who joined them when they are in League One who have gone on to do well in the Premier League with them too.

“Of course we want our way to be unique and don’t want to be just copying anyone because you will never quite get it right, but I certainly think there are good examples from clubs like Norwich and Southampton of what can be achieved.”

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