Wolves under-18s will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start to the Premier League North season when they head to Middlesbrough this weekend.
Steve Davis’ young Wolves side have picked up 10 points from a possible 12 so far this year, coming just moments away from claiming a 100 per cent start when title rivals Liverpool went home with a last-minute draw.
After overcoming a stern Sunderland defence on their travels before the international break, Davis is hoping his players can repeat that result when they return to the north east on Saturday morning.
On visit to Middlesbrough
“They usually come out a little bit and have a positive outlook on teams. I’ve watched their game with Derby where they played a 4-3-3 and were very positive in their play, against a team in Derby who won the league last season.
“Although they have a different team from last season, they have a positive way of playing which will be different from the defensive block that Sunderland put in front of us.
“However, Middlesbrough look like they will come out and have a go at us which helps us a bit as we have decent, technical players who can find spaces in behind.”
On positive start to the season
“We had a really good pre-season in China, as well as in Spain with the under-23s, because the heat on those trips got us in good preparation.
“China was 38 to 39 degrees, plus high levels of humidity and we played five games in seven days, so going into the trip we were concerned, but it was the same for every club and all the players taking part.
“We used 20 players due to the weather, because everyone got tired easily, and on occasions the games were played at walking pace, but it prepared our lads really well, both physically and mentally, as they had to be ready for each day where they would have to keep going again.”
On player availability
“Our warm-up has prepared us well for the season, the players are fit and hungry, and everyone has been available.
“We’ve had players out with the first-team, training with them, and also with the under-23s, so if we can keep everyone fit within the group then we’re a strong side.
“It’s been a good start to the season. Good is probably a bit of an understatement, but we could have taken four wins from our opening four games – having to settle for a point against Liverpool after coming very close to winning.”
On matching the first-team shape
“The opening games have been a good measure on how hard the group worked in pre-season. Not only working hard on physical shape, but also on knowing their roles within the team.
“They’ve really grasped that now, they understand the system – matching what the first-team and the under-23s are doing – and they can slip into that system easily. The plan is there so if there’s availability in Rob’s team, then the under-18s can fit into that system very easily.
“You’ve seen that already this season with Lewis Richards going between the age groups and making such a smooth transition into the defence of the under-23s.”
On learning the system
“The under-16s and below play a different way, but we have the system that runs down from the first-team to under-23s to under-18s and as soon as players come in as first-year scholars they have to learn and implement it. That tactical awareness is a key part of their development.
“Not many teams in our league play the same way as the first-team, but that’s what the club wants, and we’re more than happy to do that and recruit within that system.
“There’s a couple of players who struggled with the system last year, but now they’ve had a year of playing it they have a good understanding and it’s showing in the results.”
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