Returning to the club he spent five years playing for, Mark Kennedy has noticed major differences between the Wolves he left behind in 2006 and the one he came back to in the summer of 2019.
Originally arriving back at Compton Park as an Academy coach to assist loans pathways manager Seyi Olofinjana, Kennedy has now stepped in as caretaker head coach of the under-23s following the departure of another ex-Wolves star in Rob Edwards.
But the 2003 Division One play-off final goal scorer said the chance to work with the loans group and help open career routes for several Wolves players was what attracted him back to Molineux after 13 years away.
On returning to Wolves
“In terms of the facilities and the faces around the club, things have changed. The training ground was just about up and running in my last year, but it was a fantastic club when I left and it’s still a fantastic club today – even though everyone can see that it’s a different club to the one I left.
“Before I came back, I spoke to quite a well-known Wolves player who said the club is a lot different even to when he left in 2014, so to progress as much as they have in just four or five years is a great credit to everyone here.
“The Academy and the senior staff have done a wonderful job, the likes of Scott [Sellars] and those before him, while the direction the club is going in has been down to the current owners who have played a huge part in that.”
On joining the coaching staff
“One of the main reasons I wanted to come back to Wolves and what really attracted me back here, on top of having the chance to work with people like Rob [Edwards] and Scott, was working with the loans group.
“Working with those players, you’re dealing with all different types of situations in terms of where players are at. Within a loans group, you’ve obviously got anyone from a player who’s going out on loan with a view to coming back and playing with the first-team, you’ve also got players whose futures are in the balance.
“They might not have a future in the Wolves first-team, they’re maybe too old for the under-23s and we’re there to help unblock their pathway to secure their future elsewhere.”
On working with the loans group
“It’s a group where there’s all different types of emotions. Some players are coming back excited, looking forwards to getting fit, ready and going out on loan to progress their careers, while others are coming back and thinking that they’ve got to find themselves another club because this club isn’t their future.
“It’s the difficulties and the emotional challenges that I was looking forwards too when I returned to Wolves, dealing with the players, dealing with the emotions and dealing with different characters, to create an environment which is creative, adaptable and enjoyable for the players, all the while looking to develop them in that short time frame we have.”
On collaborating with other teams
“We want Wolves to be a go to club for loans players. We want Wolves to be ringing us up saying ‘we want your players on loan’ because they’re always in great shape, their attitudes are fantastic and they’re highly motivated.
“This is so when they’re going on loan, they’re not taking five or six weeks finding their feet and getting ready, we’re creating an environment that when we send players out on loan, they feel good about themselves, feeling fit, feeling ready – technically and tactically – for the challenge and highly motivated.
“We don’t just want to send players anywhere, we want to send them to clubs who have a connection, a style of play, or a vision that relates to ourselves, because if they are going out on loan, when they come back in, they’re ready to go again.”