*Earlier in the summer we carried a piece on Wolves’ recruitment department, and the structure now in place to try and spot the best available talent but at home and abroad (CLICK HERE TO VIEW). Here now is the second part of that interview, focusing on the importance of recruitment at all levels of the club.
While it is always the senior signings and those vying to go straight into the first team which understandably catch the headlines, for Wolves, recruitment is viewed as equally as important at all levels of the club.
And perhaps the scouting utopia? Spotting a player at Academy level or bringing in a young player who goes all the way through to make his name at first team level.
In recent years Wolves have strived to ensure their recruitment is equally proficient at all levels and ages of the game, to try and build and develop on the excellent young talent which has been identified by the intrepid scouts from the pitches of Wolverhampton and beyond.
The likes of local Academy graduates Danny Batth, Jack Price, Liam McAlinden and Ethan Ebanks-Landell all emerged powerfully from the shadows during the Sky Bet League One title-winning season, with others brought into the club at a young age such as Lee Evans, Matt Doherty and Aaron McCarey also making key impacts.
And that is why Head of Recruitment Stuart Webber believes his Academy counterpart Kieran Scott has an equally important role in spearheading the search for potential first team players of the future.
Work has continued through the summer to bring in new signings for Kenny Jackett’s team this summer, with Tommy Rowe and Rajiv Van La Parra already secured, but that focus is also aimed at Under-21 level with a move for Barcelona’s Jordi Ortega also completed subject to the necessary paperwork.
“For Kieran and the guys in the Academy all the tournaments take place through the summer and players are out of contract from other clubs who we can start talking to,” says Webber.
“And from our Under-21s group a lot of those lads have gone into the first team set-up so there is a need to replace those players as well.
“Some of the Under-18s will filter up as always happens but we will also maybe have to add two or three as well.
“For us as a department probably the pinnacle in terms of what people see is who we sign for the first team.
“But there is a bigger picture of also filling the Under-21 group up and the 18s and the 16s.
“The ideal situation for us is we don’t sign a player at first team level, he comes up through the Academy or Under-21s.
“That is the aim of our model.
“Whether you’re the owner or a supporter there is nothing better than seeing one of your own make it and this year has been a proud year in that respect.
“So Kieran’s remit, is probably more important than mine, in terms of the long term stability of the club.
“Kieran has to bring in players to potentially save the club money at the top end, but also players who have come in at such an age that they are part of the club, understand the make-up of the club, know the people and care for the club.
“Kieran has done a great job since he came in as have all the scouts, including the eight part-time scouts who are the unsung heroes really, out and about every weekend and midweek watching games and watching players.”
The likes of the arrivals of Lee Evans and Kortney Hause follow on from Aaron McCarey, Matt Doherty and Jake Cassidy in previous years in terms of Wolves always on the lookout for good young players to supplement those who are coming through the Academy.
And a sign of how far the net is being cast came with the signings last summer of Portuguese winger Eusebio Bancessi and midfielders Albert Torras and Carlo Erdei from Spain and Romania respectively.
Webber continues: “If you look at what we have done in the last couple of years, Lee Evans has come into the Under-21s and then gone on to be one of the mainstays of the first team and he’s still only 19 years old.
“We signed Kortney Hause in January who was a great example of good scouting.
“We watched him for the first time on January 3rd, 2013, and ended him signing up on January 31st, 2014.
“There was a full year watching him and following him.
“I remember one night we saw him play in the Carling Cup against Leicester and Nugent and Wood which was a good test for him.
“And then there was game away at Rochdale when he played at left back and had a really bad game and was taken off at half time.
“We had a year to paint a real picture of what he is and hopefully we have signed a very good player for the future.
“We also brought in the three lads from abroad at the start of the season – Eusebio, Carlo and Albert.
“Eusebio actually got close to playing this season which is a good achievement given he is only 18.
“When he arrived last summer he didn’t speak a word of English has done very well to progress and for the majority of the time has been training with the first team.
“I think he scored 13 goals for the Under-21s from a wide position which is excellent.
“Carlo and Albert are younger than Eusebio and next season they’ll be playing in the Under21s a lot more.
“With foreign players you do have to be that little bit more patient because they are needing to settle in to a new language and culture and play a totally different style of football.
“Those lads have done that quite well and from time to time I think it is good to be able to supplement the homegrown players and those we bring in with players from abroad who are that little bit different to what we have already.”
And when it comes to younger players, the keyword from all at Wolves is often ‘patience’.
No longer are big decisions on players necessarily taken when they immediately come out of the Academy, but, as seen particularly with the breakthrough season enjoyed by Jack Price, it may be slightly later that they become suited for the demands of first team football.
“Albert for example has spent a lot of time training with the first team this year,” adds Webber.
“Because he is such a good footballer he can handle it and the first team players have got no problem with passing him the ball because they know he will keep hold of it.
“But for him it’s a case of getting used to the physical side and the pace of the game which is new to him.
“Sometimes you do have to take your time with players and Jack Price here is a great example.
“He is almost like a foreign player in his style and physique and he’s a great example of how a player can develop.
“Leon Osman at Everton is an example of a player who was 22 before he really came in and, now that he is 30 and has been playing in the Premier League for many years, everyone forgets that he came through a little bit later.
“That is where I think we do well as a club in giving these boys just that little bit longer and show that key word which rarely exists in football – patience.
“The coaches here can identify these players and how they develop and are good judges that sometimes they may just need a bit longer.
“Realism is that if you want a young midfielder who is physically fantastic, technically fantastic, clever, and all the other things – the truth is unless you’re going to spend a hell of a lot of money you’re not getting him.
“So we do have to bring in players where we can see a little bit more into the future and say he’s not quite there yet but in a year or two years he might become that.
“With the players that have emerged for us it has been an exciting year from that point of view.”