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Jonathan Hunter-Barrett | Academy Profile

Developing every aspect of Wolves' youngest possible stars of the future is the task of Jonathan Hunter-Barrett.

The head of coaching and development for Wolves Academy's under-9s to under-12s is in charge of making sure the club spots local talent from an early age – while helping the players to progress in both their academic and football education.

“My two main focuses are on coach development and the operational management, meaning I ensure the coaching development programme and process is in place, while leading how we get boys recruited into the programme, and what they are actually doing when they get in,” said Hunter-Barrett.

“The boys are young and still learning, so we need to make sure they know the importance of education outside of the football club and how that impacts what they do when they're here.”

As well as providing young players with 'football knowledge', Hunter-Barrett takes a holistic approach to development, aiming to improve the whole of a young person – psychologically, socially and physically – while keeping it fun.

“The most important thing is that they are enjoying it. Part of my responsibility is to make sure what we are delivering to the boys is delivered in a fun way.

“Our main ethos across the Academy is to give players an education. We have two full time education officers and they have a number of different school liaison officers who take care of each of the boys' schools.

“Each education officer is designated a squad or two and make sure the education is aligned with what they do here. So when the boys do come into the Academy they have education sessions which are bespoke to what they are doing in their school curriculum.”

Working in different capacities throughout the Academy during his seven years at Wolves, Hunter-Barrett's focus also stems into 'pre-Academy' – which starts at five-years-old – while he also works closely with the other age group leaders to maintain progression throughout the programme.

“What we are trying to do is align the programme, so as soon as the boys come in through the door it's a consistent journey – rather one with different beliefs and values.

“We have local scouts who recommend boys into the programme at a young age and our job then is to look at who has the potential to develop.

“We have to look forward as far as we can and make sure we have the skill of the staff from all disciplines – not just the football department – to give the boys everything they need individually to succeed.”

One of the club's more recent success stories has been the emergence of Morgan Gibbs-White, who was one of the first players to join the Academy's 'full-time' programme.

“It's a really thorough programme and obviously it's going to be a rollercoaster for the players. It's never going to be plain sailing – it wasn't for Morgan. He wasn't on the full-time programme initially, but he proved he does have the ability and potential to do it.

“Obviously not every boy gets through and we do have to have a few difficult conversations with players and parents just to make sure it's the best thing for everyone involved in the programme.

“But it's a really exciting time for the Academy. The belief and support is there, especially from the manager [Nuno] which is always good for us.”

This article first appeared in the Wolves versus Southampton matchday programme, which is available around Molineux on matchdays for just £3.50, and also featured content with Ryan Bennett, Leo Bonatini and Sam Winnall. Back issues are available in the Molineux Megastore and online now.

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