Rob Edwards is back at Wolves – and relishing the challenge of producing the club’s next batch of young players.
The 31-year-old former Welsh international recently started work as Wolves’ Under-18 coach, his first permanent step into the coaching world after a couple of years preparing for life after playing.
Edwards, who spent four years at Wolves and made almost half of his career appearances whilst at Molineux, hung up his boots last October, and has since picked up substantial coaching experience and expertise which he is now ready to put to good use.
“I was delighted to land the role,” he says.
“It is something I have been working towards and aiming for over the last couple of years when I was going into the latter stages of my playing career.
“I knew this was the route I wanted to go down and have been preparing for that and going through various coaching badges.
“It is fantastic to land a position like this so soon and am relishing the challenge.
“I took a year out of the game after retiring from playing and worked for free in coaching at Manchester City and Wolves’ Academies and it has paid off in terms of giving me the necessary experience to be able to now land this position.
“I have learned a lot and met some great people and hopefully have been doing something right to land such an important role at a Category One football club and I am very proud to be taking it on.
“I was shadowing Gareth Taylor with the Under-16s at Man City and then I was going in more and more.
“I was going in three days a week and then it became four and then I managed to add to it by coming in at Wolves as well.
“I was assisting Darren Ryan with the Under-16s and it was giving me a really good experience and seeing how it all works alongside with doing my badges.
“It was a great learning curve for me and has prepared me for what is the real thing now in terms of being the lead at Under-18 level.
“I’ve had a great first couple of weeks and I know it is going to be a demanding job but I also know I am up to it, I have the energy for it and am really looking forward to it.”
As a young and ambitious coach with a determination to succeed, Edwards is keen to prove his man-management skills, a key factor when working with young players and all the ups and downs that their formative years can bring.
“I remember how these young lads will feel and it wasn’t all that long ago – 14 years maybe – that I was in their position,” he adds.
“I can put myself in their shoes and understand how they feel.
“The experiences you go through in a playing career shapes the sort of person you are and how you behave and do things yourself.
“As a person, I know how I want to get the best out of the players and I think it is really important, especially at this age, to get to know the individual.
“You need to be able to understand the players and I think that is where I have a good skill-set.
“A lot of the courses that you go on make you realise how important each individual is.
“Whether it’s in a training session or talking in a classroom, every player learns differently and you have got to realise that and affect every individual in different ways.
“Man management is very important and hopefully my own experiences and approach will stand me in good stead.
“Everyone has their own individual style of coaching and managing and you pick up bits all the way through your career, often even sub-consciously.
“And I think that will change for me over the coming years as well because in football there is always the opportunity to carry on improving and getting better.”
The structure in place at Wolves now is one which aims to ensure a consistency throughout the club from first team to Academy.
The beauty of that for Edwards is that his philosophy, and the way he would like Wolves Under-18s to play, is a perfect fit.
“I’ve built up a way now and I have my philosophy now about how I want a team to be playing,” he explains.
“What is great is that the philosophy marries up exactly with what Wolves are wanting as well.
“We want to play good football, passing football which is possession-based but with a purpose and attacking teams.
“There is obviously a lot more detail in and around that but I think that is what most people want to see and how the players want to play.
“I had a chat with Kenny (Jackett) before I came in and it is really important for the club to have a consistency running through all the levels.
“In that respect it is really important that Scott (Sellars) has come in with the Under-21s as well.
“I know Scott a bit from Man City and I think it is a fantastic appointment and I am really looking forward to working with him.
“He is going to have a great deal to offer and is someone who all of us will be able to learn from.
“There will be an alignment and a path there for all the players to see from Academy level up to the first team.”
It may have been back in 2008 that Edwards’ four years as a Wolves player came to a close.
But he has always remained in touch with fortunes at Molineux, and is acutely aware of the passionate fanbase, and the size and potential of life at Wolves.
He has actually played alongside several of those Academy graduates whose photographs adorn the corridor at the Compton training ground – now his job is to find some more!
“I think it is a really exciting time for the club,” he says.
“I’ve been here as a player and well - what a club it is.
“We would all agree that we should probably be higher and over the coming years hopefully we will be back in the Premier League.
“But the Championship is a really good league as well and hopefully the fans are going to see some cracking football and see some of the young lads continue to improve as well.
“I realise the size of the club, the potential of the club, and how important the fans are.
“I am sure they will get behind the team as they did last year – it was League One but I was at a few games working for radio and they seemed to love the season and the achievements of the team.
“And I know they love to see homegrown players coming through and that is the challenge for me and everyone else now.
“You walk through the corridor at the training ground and see so many names and faces who have made it to first team level.
“I have only been here a couple of weeks but looking at the lads and working with them I am confident that we could have a few more getting there one day.
“Don’t get me wrong – I know it is difficult and it could take time but I am really confident that we can help them and guide them in the right direction.
“Ultimately it is up to the player, but we are there to give them whatever they need to progress as players to a position where they are out on the training pitch with the first team’s Head Coach.”