Steve Davis was pleased with the attitude of his young Wolves players during their third trip to China this season, which culminated in his under-17 team lifting the fourth Zibo International Cup.
The Academy side, which was made up of several of this season’s under-18s as well as a number of under-16 players, faced three matches over five days while out in Eastern China, claiming a trio of victories without conceding.
After arriving back into Heathrow Airport from China on Monday evening, the squad stayed down in London to begin preparation for Wednesday afternoon’s U18 Premier League Cup clash with Chelsea, and Davis insists the three visits to the east this year has built a resilience in his players to help them with a hectic domestic slate of games.
On taking victory in the Zibo Cup
“It was eight days, a lot of travelling, with three games in that period, but it was a really good experience for everyone.
“They were three different types of challenge, three different styles and a couple of different tests, but the lads did really well, they approached the games well and played well.
“As a team they looked good, better than the opposition, recovered well from each game with a day off in between each game before flying straight back and arriving in the UK on Monday evening.
“They conducted themselves well and their attitudes are always something that we look at when we go away from home, how they cope with that, as well as the difference in food and culture; they coped with it – some better than others.
“We hoped the group would get each other through it and get on with it, but they did should quite a bit of resilience while they were over there, which was really pleasing.”
On experiences in China
“We are preparing them for life in football, and it’s hard. You’re preparing for something that is challenging every day, it has a certain discipline and a structure which you have to follow, and that’s what we’re preparing them for.
“You learn a lot about your players when they’re in these situations and the coping mechanisms they have while you’re away. This is when you learn about them the most, and China is a place where were going to end up going frequently. We get quite a lot of invites to play there, we go to different places and get different experiences every time.
“This is the third time we’ve been over there in the past five months, after Beijing at the beginning of June and Weifang in July, so we’ve spent over a month in China already this year if you look at it like that and they’ve been brilliant experiences.
“But we’re not just looking at the football parts, we’re looking at the other attributes that you need, and if the players are doing ‘the basics’ in terms of the values – do they behave, do they act professional – all those really important factors.
“We know they’re talented and a lot of young players fail not because the talent isn’t there, but it’s because they don’t have the right attitude, behaviours and coping mechanisms, so it’s just as important – if not more important – for us that we get that side of their personality right.”
On helping to build a resilient team
“We were able to cope with the challenging schedule in Weifang during pre-season where we played 90 minutes virtually every day – they had two days off in seven, playing almost five games on the bounce in 38 degrees.
“That built really strong resilience in the group, allowing them to keep getting up and going again after each of the results and performances. You didn’t have time to think, it was just about preparing as well as you could for the next game.
“Pre-season helped build a very solid structure for them, and I think this third visit has really helped them, it’s really moulded them – and, importantly, they don’t complain or moan about being tired, they just get on with it.
“They might not always play well – we know that, but they get on with it and always look to improve. We’ve gone straight from a week-long tournament in China to playing Chelsea on Wednesday afternoon and they’re enjoying it.”
On Wednesday’s Chelsea challenge
“We’re looking forwards to Chelsea. We trained down there at their training ground on one of their outside pitches on Tuesday ahead of the match. They accommodated us for a session, which was really good of them.
“The players look fine, but they’re quite a resilient group, so nobody complained. We have a good laugh together as a group, we’re very sociable, and the players are happy and they’re pulling each other through.
“They know what they’ve got to do after a long trip, they had a good sleep on Monday night and some good food, before getting some analysis done before the match.
“It’s a tough schedule having to play four games in 10 days and then we go to Manchester United in the league on Saturday, so the games keep coming thick and fast, but that’s what they’re here for.”