Academy trio promoted to first-team squad

Wolves Academy graduates Chem Campbell, Hugo Bueno and Jackson Smith have all earned permanent promotions to Bruno Lage’s first-team squad for the 2022/23 Premier League season.

Winger Campbell, left-back Bueno and goalkeeper Smith all spent pre-season with the first-team group and have done enough during the opening months of the campaign to prove their worth to the head coach, his staff and their teammates.

All three featured regularly in Wolves’ senior side during the pre-season friendlies, with at least one of the trio appearing in the six matches the team played during camps in Spain and Portugal, while the three were all present from the start as the side faced Farense in the final outing before the season got underway.

Welsh youth international Campbell – who has already made two Premier League appearances, including a cameo off the bench against Leeds United on opening day – became the second youngest senior starter in Wolves history when he was named in the side for the Carabao Cup clash against Aston Villa back in 2019.

Having made the switch from Birmingham City three years earlier, he has since gone on to become a key man in James Collins’ under-21 squad in recent years, leading the team as top goalscorer last season as they earned promotion to Premier League 2 Division 1.

Spanish full-back Bueno joined Wolves as a scholar from Areosa back in the summer of 2019 where he was converted from an attacking midfielder into a left wing-back during his first year in gold and black.

He has gone on to play almost 100 times for the under-18s and under-23s in the past few seasons, with his most fruitful of those coming in the closing stages of last campaign, finding the back of the net five times in as many outings to help the side to promotion.

Lage said: “With Bueno, I can see the way he is improving. Since my first day here, he started training with us and we can see also the good performances that he’s had in the under-21s.

“And with Chem, at the beginning [of last season] I looked at him for six months and thought to myself ‘maybe he’s just another kid’. But after that moment, I can see him as a man. He’s now got more responsibility, more in training, and he’s started this season very well. I’m very happy and he can be a solution.”

Telford-born goalkeeper Smith has been at Wolves since the age of eight and progressed all the way through the age categories in the club’s youth set-up. He now aims to become the first academy goalkeeper to represent the senior side since Harry Burgoyne.

Following two impressive loan spells with Frickley Athletic and Kettering Town, Smith has first-team experience in non-league under his belt and Lage said the 20-year-old will back up Jose Sa and Matija Sarkic this season.

Although not a recent graduate from the academy, Connor Ronan is also fully integrated into the senior squad after spending five years away from Molineux on various loan stints. During his time away, the 2015/16 Academy Player of the Season has become an experienced midfielder with more than 150 senior appearances to his name.

“We are very happy with Jackson and the minutes that he had in the pre-season, and Connor gave me a good impression,” Lage added. “I spoke with him because I thought he was a little bit anxious and I understand that he felt that this was the last opportunity with us as he’d been here a long time. But after speaking to him, now I can see that he’s relaxed, he’s confident and he’s training very well.

“For now, we know with all these guys they can bring competition to our squad. It is so important to have these kinds of players in our academy, to belong in our team and our squad to bring competition.”