Scott Sellars is determined to ensure the Wolves Academy is producing players for the first-team every year, by nurturing current talent and attracting new prospects to the club.
Wolves have created a reputation for producing players of their own, with the likes of Morgan Gibbs-White, Ryan Giles and Niall Ennis the latest in a long line of youngsters to progress through the system to reach the first-team. However, Sellars, who recent took over as Academy manager, wants to ensure that they are not the names still being spoken about in 12 months’ time at the Academy.
On targets for the Academy
"Since I’ve been here, from day one, I’ve always talked about getting players in the first-team football as the key job. As a youth team coach, under-23s coach, Academy manager, that’s what you should be judged on. I don’t think anyone really cares who won the FA Youth Cup for the last seven years, I don’t think most people would know, it’s about developing players and I think our record is good – but I want it to be better.
"I don’t want to be talking about Morgan [Gibbs-White] in ten years’ time, I want to be talking about the next one, and hopefully, in each age group, we’re going to have two or three players who will be at the level to come in to Wolverhampton Wanderers and get into the first-team.
"On the other hand, looking at recruitment, we are looking around Europe at other players. We’re not just going to look at what’s in the Midlands, we’re being proactive about looking at what’s in England, and I’ve spent a bit of time looking at players abroad as well. I want to maximise what we can do, but also catch up with the first-team and their model."
On aims for first-team progression
"It’s very difficult to put a number on in. You can have great years, poor years, as long as you are recognising that early, you can deal with it.
"If you leave it really late, that can put a lot of pressure on you and you can sometimes make mistakes, so a big thing we talk about here, from first-team and Academy succession planning is looking at what players we have in the system at each age group, where do we need support, where is the elite player.
"We’ve just got to keep continually checking and challenging that and making sure the conveyor belt is there."
On producing young talent
"If you want to be successful, you don’t just pat yourself on the back and say well done. The great thing about those boys [Gibbs-White, Giles and Ennis] is that all of them were born within 30 minutes of Wolverhampton. That shows there is talent here, that shows we are doing a good job in terms of developing them, but we’ve got to be talking about two or three-years’ time about a few more.
"In all my years in football, either the development side of it or as a player, I’ve never seen an opportunity for young players to get into a first-team like I do here now. Nuno’s got 16 outfield players, that means if there’s one or two injuries, you can’t go into the transfer market, so the next step would be the under-23 players. They have to be ready and they also have to recognise the opportunity they’ve got.
"Most days, at least four or five young players are training with the first-team, so they have the chance to be working with top coaches, playing against Neves, Moutinho, Traore – all these top players. In terms of their development, it’s like an ultimate finishing school for them within football. We’re very lucky and we’ve got to make sure that we’re giving Nuno the right material."
On creating an environment for success
"I’m doing a master’s degree at the moment and part of my studies has been looking at pathways of young players, between the ages of 17 and 21, and a big subject that comes out of it is the mental health issues. I believe the number of players whom are reporting mental health issues at some point is around 56 per cent, so that’s a little bit scary. We should have a challenging, elite environment, but in that, we must support the boys and help them.
"They’re not all going to make it, and that’s the sad thing. They all come with that dream, but we have to be really honest, and I think if you are more honest, that creates a very supportive environment that can help them."