Wolves’ Head of Football Development and Recruitment Kevin Thelwell spoke to Wolves Player this week to give an update on the season, how things are working under the club’s new structure and many more things besides.
The two-part video can be viewed via Wolves’ Official You Tube site (click here for site) but here below is a summary of Kevin’s interview.
*First of all Kevin, almost a year into your new position and six months working with Kenny Jackett since his arrival as Head Coach. How it is all going?
KT: I’m very pleased with how things have gone so far. At the start of my tenure it was a very difficult time and the changes that took place with Stale leaving and then Dean. Since that all happened I am really pleased with the way everything has been organised. We were delighted to be able to recruit Kenny who is doing a terrific job and everything appears to be moving in the right direction which is great from where we were.
*How does the structure work with yourself and Kenny and Jez Moxey? Is it complicated?
KT: The structure is probably more straightforward than people might think. Kenny’s responsibility is to prepare the team, organise the team and get them ready to play games and get results. My role is to support Kenny and work shoulder to shoulder with him to make sure all the support services at the club are fit for purpose. So that’s coaching recruitment, analysis, sports science, medical science, the Academy – all of those have to be in the right place at the right time to give us that edge to make sure we are as good as we possibly can be. Everyone recognises these days that there is so much pressure on Head Coaches and Managers - whoever it is in that lead role - so allowing them to look at what is really important has to be the main focus. Jez, Kenny and I speak on a daily basis and talk about all the different footballing issues and will work together to find solutions to any problems we might have. And then collectively we then report to the Board.
*We see regular morning meetings Kenny holds with the staff at Compton and many other meetings as well. How important is good communication in a structure such as this?
KT: Communication is huge and really important. It is something Kenny has brought in and is something we have taken on. We all work at a huge club where there is lots going on and lots to talk about and that means communicating on a daily basis about the first team and then players across all levels. That is absolutely vital to our chances of success. It also means that everyone starts the day being clear about what their roles are and what they are accountable for and how they are going to work.
*And the football so far this season – what is your assessment?
KT: On the pitch I am really pleased with how things have gone. I know there is a lot of expectation, and so there should be, because we’re a big club. If you would have said to me that after 16 games we would be top of the table, seven points clear of third and with a nine goal better goal difference, then I would have been delighted with that. Given the number of changes that took place over the off season, and with all of the changes that have taken place within the squad, I think we need to recognise that probably 50 per cent of the squad are either homegrown or under 21 and that makes for a big old change. I think they have done brilliantly and the whole squad has started to gel together in a very short space of time and move in the right direction.
*How key was the development of young players and their promotion to the senior squad?
KT: When we first started talking about appointing a next Head Coach, we talked in great detail with Jez and the Board about what would be important. Without question, getting back to a young and hungry attitude and having opportunities for young players was right up there at the top of the agenda. So whoever came and took that role had to be able to marry that expectation of getting us promoted and also promoting our young players because we feel that we’ve got a good group who are good enough. It is especially pleasing for me as a former Academy manager to see some of the young players not only get an opportunity but start to prove they are good enough which is what the Academy system is all about.
*And the importance of the new signings?
KT: When we started to look at players and the recruitment process, Ken, myself, Jez and Stuart (Head of Recruitment Stuart Webber) sat down and talked about what we were looking for.
And we made it very simple. We want the right players to come to the football club but we also want to get the right people. In order to do that you have to carry out an extensive amount of due diligence that needs to go into making sure they fit the bill. For every player we produce a 25-page dossier of information of everything about them to make sure they are what we want them to be.
So far we have been delighted with the way the new signings have come in and fitted in very quickly and the quality they have brought is there for all to see.
*How do you prepare for the January transfer window?
KT: Again it is a constant review and evaluation of the players we have got and the group we have and some of the issues that might materialise. By doing that evaluation on a daily basis with all of us we are talking all the time about ways in which we might be able to improve and where we are strong or where we may be a little bit weak. It’s about looking at where we see potentially players coming in and also going out. The key point to make here is that we are always looking to make sure the squad improves. If we are sticking to that premise then when we get to the key markers such as the transfer window in January, it provides us with opportunities to make that improvement if the right players come along. It is not going to be wholesale change and it can’t be wholesale change because we want to make sure the group progresses. But certainly we are always making sure that the group is as strong as it possibly can.
*We have seen some younger players come in from across Europe this season and Jack McBean training with the club for a few days from LA Galaxy. Is the net being spread wider?
KT: Football is a global game now. Just because we are in League One it doesn’t mean we can’t recruit and attract players from further afield. We are aiming much higher than League One, we have to be, because Wolves is a club with ambitions to play at a higher level. On that basis we have to recruit good players from wherever it may be. The MLS is a really interesting situation and is one we have been looking at since January. They do have an ‘off season’ which they are coming into now, and that provides an opportunity for us to bring players in and have a good look at them. We are continually looking across Europe whether it be myself, or Stuart or Chris (Technical Recruitment Officer Chris Badlan) going out to visit games and that’s taking in youth games as well as senior games. We are making sure we cover all bases to make sure we get the strongest players that we can.
*How tough have been some of the decisions taken, especially during the summer?
KT: Football clubs are always involved in constant review and evaluation of the most important factor – which is the squad. What we want the squad to do is go out on a Saturday and represent all of us in how they play and what their attitude is. There have been some tough decisions made and some players have moved out but that is part of the process of us focusing down on what is going to make us as successful as we possibly can. Hopefully people can see that we have made those decisions for the right reasons and we are starting to see some good performances from the players who have been recruited as well as the young players. This has been a process that we had to go through and hopefully it can be seen to have been a positive process so far.
*Finally, with the new Academy building set for completion next year, how confident are you about the future off the pitch as well as on?
KT: I think these are exciting times. I come into work at the training ground every day and there is more work being done on the old St Edmund’s building and it is going to be great to see the new building going up there. It is a big statement by the Football Club about how important the Academy is and the young players to the club going forwards. If we can continue to provide the right quality I think that means they will get the right opportunity, and then we may see more and more local players coming through to the first team and representing Wolves at Molineux.