Midfielder all set for Bitzer Cup defence
Wolves midfielder Connor Ronan is very much looking forward to Wolves’ defence of the Bitzer Cup, which starts on Saturday in the German city of Ergenzingen.
Ronan is set to captain the Wolves side that features a mixture of Under 18 and 21 players, and was part of the tournament winning squad last year. Which is something that the midfielder believes will provide a big advantage for the team in this year’s competition.
Ronan said: “We’re quite confident - despite coming off the back of not having had the best season - and that’s due to last year where we weren’t so confident and we didn’t know what to expect.
“We ended up winning the tournament, and we can take a lot from that and go there expecting to get some results.”
Last year’s tournament holds happy memories for Ronan who finished as the tournament’s joint-top goal scorer alongside team-mate Jordan Graham, both of whom scored three goals.
Ronan’s first goal came in their first match with VFB Stuttgart and he scored a brace in the semi-final match with Red Star Belgrade which Wolves won 2-0.
“I remember going in to the tournament not really thinking too much about it,” he recalls.
“The games were all quick and fast-paced, so you have to get into them quickly.
“In the first game I scored and we won 1-0, and we got a feel for the tournament.
“We built up confidence from each game, keeping clean sheets, and I think after the second game we felt that we could go on and win it and that we had a good chance.
“Over the tournament we only conceded one goal, which was a massive achievement for us.”
Wolves then went on to beat Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara in the final, 5-4 on penalties, thanks to goalkeeper Harry Burgoyne’s tournament winning save.
The international flavour to the eight-team tournament will be on display again this year, with four teams from Germany, one from Belgium (Standard Liege), Italy (Torino) and Sweden (IFK Gothenburg) all taking part.
Scott Sellars’ team open up with the hosts TuS Ergenzingen on Saturday, followed by matches with Standard de Liege and German side FSV Mainz 05 on Sunday. With the top two teams going through to the semi-final and final that are played on the same day.
Each team will represent a different test, something Ronan knows all too well.
He said: “Depending on who you’re playing it’s a different style of football.
“Our first game last year was against Stuttgart and they tried to keep the ball, pass it and keep it away from us.
“But then in the next game we were playing a team that liked to defend and counter attack.
“So you’ve got to expect anything from any team really.
“It’s always good to play against different styles of football that you aren’t used to over here.”
It’s been a frustrating season for the club’s Under 21’s who finished in 12th place of the Barclays Under 21 Premier League, division 2, though Ronan believes the team’s performances have not reflected the results.
He said: “We started off quite well, we won our first game of the season and then picked up a couple of points from the next couple of games.
“Overall our performances were of a good standard, there was only a few games where we haven’t played well.
“It’s just been that the results haven’t gone our way, even when we’ve played some of the bigger teams like Arsenal.
“We just haven’t finished chances off and conceded silly goals and they’ve cost us points.
“But I think Under 21 football is about personal development and playing well, and I think that’s more important than the results, though it’s always nice to get a good result.”
From a personal point of view, it’s been a good season for Ronan, one that started with him featuring in the first team squad during their pre-season tour of France.
He’s also played an important role for both the Under 21’s and Jerry Gill’s Under 18’s, where he featured in the team’s FA Youth Cup run.
And there was also the small matter of being named Wolves Academy Player of the Year on Tuesday night, an award collected by Dad Steven as he was away on international duty.
That followed the accolade of being named the Ireland Under 17 player of the year in February, a prestigious award and something that he’ll never forget.
“I first found out about it when I received an e-mail from an FAI telling me I had been nominated,” he said.
“Which was a surprise as I was never thinking of getting and award or being chosen for it.
“Wolves gave me a couple of days off to go over for the awards ceremony and I ended up winning it, which was a massive honour and for me and my family!
“They were all proud of me and it was great to be there with all the Ireland first team players and meet them.
“Richard Keogh [Derby County] and Seamus Coleman [Everton] presented the award to me.
“All the award winners were together at the end as well, like Jon Walters [Stoke City] and it was really good to meet him and have a friendly chat with him - it was nice of him to come over and speak to me.”
A Bitzer Cup win would cap off a great season for Ronan, who plans on improving on this campaign next season.
He said: “Personally I just want to go one better than this season, so where this season I have played a few games for the first team in friendlies, next season I’m hoping to get a few appearances in competitive games, and try to impress the gaffer.
“I’d also be open to going out on loan, definitely!
“Any chance to play first team football would be a great experience.”