James Collins has paid tribute to his under-23s group, who he believes “got what they deserve” following on a brilliant night at Molineux, where promotion to the top flight was celebrated.
Wolves’ youngsters have been incredible since the turn of the year, losing just one league fixture, and that positivity continued into the play-offs, where promotion was secured following a thoroughly professional victory over Stoke City. Since Collins’ arrival in January 2020, he’s developed a young group, and while he expects the cycle to change next season, as some individuals take their next steps, he knows the importance of nights like Monday and the opportunity to celebrate success together.
On a special night
“These are incredible nights. In development football you don’t get many of them because you’re in development, that’s the word, but part of the development at the end of a youth team process is learning how to win, and to top it off with a promotion is brilliant.
“It’s great for the club to be in the top division, it’s great for the individuals to get the plaudits their hard work deserves, and it’s nice for the staff and academy to have a night like this. It gives everyone a lift before our break to come back firing and go again.”
On controlling the game
“I thought first-half we were excellent, we have been, some of our football has been excellent, really a joy to watch. At two up, you don’t quite know if to stick or twist, which is understandable, so we did a bit of both and I don’t think they overly threatened our goal. It was just about seeing the game out in the end, but it’s great for the young lads to get that experience.
“I said to them before the West Brom game that, even if you have a brilliant career, you don’t get many cup finals, you don’t get many titles and many promotions, so these nights are important to enjoy and hopefully they will.”
On the group’s mental strength
“I’m quite philosophical in the fact we could have lost on penalties to Norwich and we’d all be sat on the beach now, but if you work hard, you get what you deserve. We didn’t get what we deserved at West Brom, credit to them, I thought it was one of our best performances of the season and we came away with nothing.
“So, to pick ourselves up against Norwich, get through penalties which was obviously exciting, and beat Stoke, they’ve now got what they deserve, which is a promotion and I couldn’t be more delighted for them.”
On the whole group pulling together
“We are a joined up football club. The first-team staff were there, greeting me off the pitch, and they don’t need to be there – they’ve had a long, hard Premier League season. They could be at home with their families, but they’ve come and supported us all season, they’ve been brilliant with us, and the under-18s staff have supported us with players, and we discuss everything.
“We try to produce a development programme which is right for the individual. Sometimes that’s not right for the team, sometimes it affects results, but we try to produce a programme right for the individual. Hopefully we get the balance, competitive and winning games, and ultimately the individual develops so we can get them in the first-team or on loan, and we’re all pulling in the right direction.”
On the job he’s done as head coach
“When I first came it was January, just before Covid, and we had some really tough games – thrown in the deep end if you like. The boys worked really hard from minute one, then the season ended early, and we were in the wrong places so went down. The boys pulled themselves together last year in the play-offs, and were a bit unlucky at Palace, and this year, especially the second part of the season, they’ve been fabulous.
“On Monday they got what they deserved and the cycle moves on, that’s development, we’ll lose quite a few of these to the first-team and loans, and we start again with the next group underneath – that’s the pleasure of the job.”
On enjoying the moment
“It’s great to see the supporters here and hopefully we’ve put on a style of football they like to see. Whenever they’ve come here, hopefully they see players who represent them, players that work hard for the team, work hard for the group, show skill, are humble, and there’s nothing like a night like this to top the season off.
“If you could end every season like this you would, but we all know football’s not like that. We’ll enjoy it as staff, as players, enjoy together, then everyone has a break, and we knuckle down to start again. That’s the nature of the game.”