Collins | 'We were excellent from start to finish'

James Collins was pleased his under-23 side were able to close out 2020 with three consecutive wins but the head coach is expecting a much tougher 2021.

The development side overcame Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City in their final three Premier League 2 Division 2 matches of the year, with the victory against the Canaries on Monday seeing Wolves without key men Taylor Perry and Theo Corbeanu due to their call ups to the first-team for their Premier League match against Burnley.

But Collins understands that with the number of substitutes allowed on Premier League benches being increased to nine, and the prospect of some of his players heading out on loan in January, the second-half of the season will be much tougher than the first.

On win against Norwich

“I thought we were excellent. From start to finish, it got nervy at the end when they got a goal back, but I thought we were really good in all aspects; or press was really good, our shape was really good, the boys were really at it and I thought we could’ve had more goals. We were really deserving of the win.

“I said to the coaches when the players went back out after half-time, 1-0 isn’t enough. I felt that we could almost get complacent because it had been comfortable in the first-half, but 1-0 is a close scoreline.

“Then, Luke [Cundle] had a chance at the start of the second-half, and it was a chance he’d expect to score, but then when the second goal came, I thought, ‘Great, we’ve got that bit of comfort,’ and then we defended well for the majority of the game.”

Richards and Hesketh help Wolves beat Canaries! Norwich City 1-2 Wolves U23s | PL2 Highlights

On defensive stability

“Our shape of the team starts from the front. I thought Conor [Carty] and Owen Hesketh did the defending job up front together as a pair, which allows the gaps to be smaller between the units, which meant it was more difficult for the opponents to get through you.

“The boy [Abu Kamara] got in nicely through the middle of the pitch, probably the only time they’d got through the middle of us, and he tucked it away well, which made it a nervy last seven or eight minutes.

“But I thought we did it very well and the backline were progressive and high with their timing and we did it well.”

On under-23s featuring on the bench in the Premier League

“In some ways, you hope it affects the under-23s. If you’re not on the bench, then you can’t get on the pitch. Then it’ll be the gaffer’s decision to whether to use all nine, or he could use seven or eight, but I think he’ll use them if they’re doing well enough.

“It’s always nice when you’re watching a first-team game, we’ll get on the bus to go home now and watch the first-team game, and hope to see some of the under-23s players in and around it, which is great for our players, to know there is an opportunity there.

“It may have an effect which weakens us slightly and then there’s also the loans in January which will affect that.

“You’ve got to get the players who need it out on loan for the second-half of the season, but then that will give the opportunity for younger ones to come through. It’ll be a tougher second-half of the season, but it’s nice to end the first-half on three wins.”

On giving players league experience

“I think we’ll have players going out on loan, but I don’t know who, as I don’t know which clubs will want them.

“You’ve got players like TP [Taylor Perry], Theo [Corbeanu] and Mertian [Shabani] who look ready to play above this level. Meri’s a good player who needs challenging, so he’s ready for a loan.

“TP’s in a similar boat, he’s had a good first half to the season, and there’s others. You look at Lewis Richards etc, who can all play at league level.

“Nuno and Scott [Sellars] will decide who is ready, who needs it, who he needs around his group, and then we’ll deal with who we have remaining, and that gives younger ones an opportunity.”

On plans for the coming weeks

“It’s been intense since we came back from the Covid restart and players haven’t had a chance to go home because of that. Normally they have a few days to do that, but we’ve had to keep them around in a very strict Covid bubble which has been difficult, but that’s how it is for everyone.

“I think it’ll be really nice to hopefully get them home because there were one or two worried when the new restrictions and rules were announced at the weekend. We have a few boys from different parts of the world, so hopefully we can get them home and let them have a great Christmas.

“Some will obviously stay and train with the first-team, which is terrific for them, and then we’ll come back in early new year and go again.”