In the latest of a series of post-season features looking at the work of the club's backroom staff, we catch up with Stuart Webber on the behind-the-scenes work which goes on with the recruitment department. In a second piece, to come at a later date, he looks at the importance of Under-21 and Academy scouting in the club's overall strategy.
Preparing for all eventualities – that is the job of the Wolves’ recruitment department both heading into the re-opening of the transfer window and also looking further ahead into the future.
The area of signing players is often a precarious one, where even the best laid plans can sometimes come to nothing for a variety of reasons.
And that is why the club’s recruitment arm need to be ready with various lists of targets, and, in line with the need and desire to be ahead of the game, had been looking strongly towards the Sky Bet Championship long before Wolves achieved promotion.
“The area of recruitment is non-stop,” says Head of Recruitment Stuart Webber.
“As I have mentioned previously, we look at it as an 18-month to two year plan in terms of how far you are looking ahead.
“That is coming to fruition now with some of the players we are looking at this summer having been watched for two years or so waiting for this moment.
“The players we signed during the season were along similar lines.
“With football now it’s all the year round.
“The league may have finished and the play-off finals are coming up but we’ve got an Under-20 tournament in France and Under-19 tournaments going on and then suddenly pre-season is upon us and the opportunity to watch some younger players in other first teams.
“It is non-stop, but already we also have an eye on the January transfer window and next summer as well.
“We have got promoted which is fantastic but the aim for the future is to get promoted again.
“So from now as well as the immediate recruitment we also have to keep one eye on that as well – that if we can get to the Premier League which players would we need to make further progress once we are there.
“And we’ve also got the opposition teams to scout as well.
“We’ve got two guys – Chris Jones and Joel Roberts – who concentrate mainly on looking at forthcoming opposition and then liaise with our analyst Phil Boardman who collaborates all the reports and puts a pack together for all the coaching staff to then look at.
Working with Head of Football Development and Recruitment Kevin Thelwell, Head Coach Kenny Jackett, and technical recruitment officer Chris Badlan, the plans for this summer have been long under the microscope for whichever division Wolves were heading into.
Webber explains: “What we have done well as a group with Kevin and Kenny and Chris and myself is be well prepared for this summer.
“Nothing can ever be taken for granted but we knew we had one of the best teams in the league and the best Head Coach and supporters in the league, so we had to be optimistic that we had a good chance of being promoted.
“That meant that behind the scenes we were not only preparing for League One but also the Championship and spinning plates a good few months – and even a year – in advance.
“Now we are in a position to try and build on that work and hopefully, by the time of pre-season there will be a couple of new arrivals which would be the result of months of hard work.
“Obviously things can always change at the negotiation stage and other clubs may come in so there is a risk involved that what you have planned for may not happen.
“But then as a department our job is not just to have Plan A but also Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and beyond.
“We have a list of players for each position so that if we don’t get number one, then where is number two, and that is a constant and ongoing conversation with Kevin and Kenny as it will be next season as well.
“Hopefully we have now got to a stage where we are that well organised that, whatever the eventuality, we are ready for it.”
The club’s signings during the title-winning season just completed all managed to make an impact and a contribution to the overall success.
Kevin McDonald for example finished up with the two main annual awards – Supporters’ and Players’ Player of the Season – Michael Jacobs won Goal of the Season and skipper Samuel Ricketts was rightly hailed for his influence both on and off the pitch.
Plenty of ‘homework’ goes into each and every target both in terms of playing ability and off-field character and personality, and teamwork on the pitch extends to the group of backroom staff charged with the task of bringing in those new faces.
And that includes the eight part-time scouts whom Webber labels as ‘unsung heroes’ for their efforts tracking potential targets across the country at all times of the year.
“We have been very pleased with the signings made this season and I think it shows a great example of teamwork,” says Webber.
“Kenny came in and wanted to bring Sam Ricketts with him and what a fantastic signing that has proved to be.
“Then there are others like Kevin McDonald, Nouha, Michael Jacobs, these are players we have been putting forward previously as well.
“We have watched these players a lot and know their personalities and with Kenny saying the same from his own knowledge we were pushing against an open door.
“Scott Golbourne is another good example of another player we had watched a lot and someone Kenny knew well from having played against him with his Millwall teams.
“James Henry came in who had worked with Kenny previously so he knew more about his personality on top of the games we had watched.
“And look how many goals and assists he chipped in with.
“The arrivals of Henry, Jacobs and Nouha probably combined to push us over the line really, while with Leon he suffered with an injury shortly after joining but now has the chance to stake a claim for next season.
“And then going back further there’s someone like Lee Evans who came in as a new young signing and has gone on to do very well.
“As a department that is a really exciting one because it is scouting at his best, taking someone from non-league for a small figure and within six months he is in the first team.
“That is what you are in the job for, to find players like those.
“And with all the young lads there is the potential to get better having been given a chance by Kenny.
“You look back at Southampton and Norwich and players who went with them all the way through from League One to the Premier League.
“They picked players early and they went all the way through and the aim is there for our young lads to do the same and really grow as part of the club.
“I don’t think there would anything more pleasing for everyone at the club and the supporters than if we can get to the Premier League also with players who have come on the journey with us.
“Obviously we would need to top that up and bring in players as we go along but having players who have come through and developed with us would also stand us in really good stead.
“Sometimes we will get it wrong and we will sign players who won’t work out for whatever reason.
“And other times we might miss out on players for financial reasons or logistically because they don’t want to move - however well we do it we are not always going to get what we want.
“But the key for us as a department is to always be prepared for every eventuality.”