Gaffer's thoughts ahead of trip to Burnley
Kenny Jackett believes that his Wolves team still have much to play for between now and the end of the campaign.
Wolves are currently 12th in the SkyBet Championship, 12 points adrift of the PlayOff positions and 11 clear of the relegation zone and Jackett has informed his players of what he wants to see in their final nine matches, starting with tomorrow’s trip to top-of-the-table Burnley (3pm).
He said: “Results are the big one, performances, promise for next year and improvement as a team and individuals.
“They are the things I’m looking at between now and the end of the season.
“And then we’ll see where that takes us.
“The pressure is very much on us to finish this season very well and if you’re looking at the age of this group, this group has to progress, has to settle down.
“Hopefully we don’t get any more injuries and we can work with the group that we have and bring one or two back which will be great and between now and the end of the season.
“We need to finish strongly and - at the right time - give one or two younger players the opportunity to shine and then really be able to go into summer looking to build for next year.”
The trip to Turf Moor sees Jackett’s men come up against the league leaders, who are on course to return to the Barclays Premier League following relegation last season.
“They’re a very good side, obviously the league table doesn’t lie,” said Jackett.
“They’ve come out of the Premier League, hit the ground running in the Championship and managed to maintain a terrific position which they are still in now.
“It’s big challenge and we want to test ourselves against the best, and against a side that are top of the league.
‘They have a strong squad and they’ve accumulated very wisely.
“They’ve brought [Andre] Gray and they’ve built around him, he’s been a pretty big player for them and they’ve kept him fit, so their league position was expected and they’ve disappointed nobody after coming out of the Premier League and they’re in a very good position.
“We would love to be up there and competing with them, bridging that gap between mid-table and one of the top sides is what we are working hard to do.
“On any one off game though predicting the the Championship is very hard to do.
“We respect Burnley and we’ll be going up there to try and give them problems and continue to improve and build ourselves.”
Jackett has boosted his attacking options ahead of the match by recalling Jed Wallace from his eye-catching loan spell at Millwall.
“Jed has had a successful spell in League One with Millwall playing on the wing / wide right position and hopefully now with the games that we have he can make a good impact here,” the Head Coach explained.
“He’s physically stronger and put weight on, he’s five kilos’ heavier than when he signed in the summer and bridging the gap between League Two to the Championship has been helped by a spell in the top end of League One.
“We have felt at times he can play wide left or as a number 10 but in a wide right area is where he’s had recent experience of being able to build his confidence, and hopefully now he can transmit that confidence into the Championship.
“He’s at the right age and is heading in the right direction and will get the opportunity between now and the end of the season to impose himself and hopefully then go into the summer very positively and full of confidence for next year.”
Wallace’s return is the only change to the squad that drew 0-0 with Birmingham City last Sunday, with both James Henry and Mike Williamson hoping to be back in contention for the match with Ipswich Town at Molineux on April 2nd.
Jackett also confirmed that Michal Zyro will continue to eased back to full fitness following an ankle injury, though the Polish forward is progressing well.
He said: “I think we’re still likely to hold him back, we need to make sure that he is right.
“When he arrived he made a good impact in the three games he played, but obviously it was too much too soon, we want him to come back and stay back.
“But he’s close though, and he’s trained well this week, he hasn’t missed any training and he’s keen himself to start the games.”
Zyro’s fellow forward Joe Mason and Scottish midfielder Kevin McDonald have also found themselves out of the starting XI in the last couple of games but Jackett insists that both players remain very much part of his plans.
Jackett also expressed his delight at the news that defenders Kortney Hause and Domonic Iorfa have both been selected in the England Under 21 squad for their Euro Under 21 Qualifying match with Switzerland on Saturday March 26th.
Iorfa was included in manager Gareth Southgate’s last squad against the Swiss in November and has two U21 caps to his name already. While Hause – who is now back to full fitness after a hamstring injury – returns to the squad for the first time since featuring against the USA last September.
Both defenders have been in impressive form this season, and Jackett believes that call-ups are well deserved.
He said: “It’s great for both lads, it’s a good experience for them and a good profile for the club and everybody who’s watched those lads develop.
“Imposing themselves and being fixtures and strong players in the Championship is their next target.”