James Collins hopes his young Wolves under-21 players will learn lessons both on and off the pitch having brought an end to a ‘life-changing’ two weeks out in the US.
Despite falling to defeat to Colorado Rapids 2 in the final match of the MLS NEXT Pro Invitational in Utah, Collins felt his players upped their game in the early hours of Thursday morning before heading home to prepare for the first game of the Premier League 2 season, which places his side up against Chelsea – who Wolves happened to beat in their opening match of the US competition.
On final game of US competition
“Compared to our performance against Real Salt Lake – I thought that was a really poor performance – we were much better. We controlled the game better, played some good football, worked the patterns that we’ve been working on and the boys played to those patterns, so it was disappointing then to concede two soft goals, one from a set-piece, to lose the game.
“But I thought overall it was a much better performance. Some of the young boys have had a real good go and done well. But it’s frustrating when you don’t win football matches.
“I said to them in the changing rooms that it’s about both boxes, and I thought what we did between the boxes was alright, but all three opponents that we’ve had on this trip have looked more likely to score than us.
“We’ve got to get better at that, we’ve got to get better at threatening the goal and we’ve got to get better at creating chances if we want to win football matches.”
A good old fashioned battle last night 💪 pic.twitter.com/sOfYk0zjUh— Wolves Academy (@WolvesAcademy) July 28, 2022
On learning lessons
“We’ve got to keep working at it, keep improving and keep working, developing them technically and developing them tactically to put them in those situations and do better in those situations.
“Second thing is that sometimes when the younger boys play, at any academy, because winning isn’t the number one thing, when there’s ten minutes to go and they’re still playing at the same tempo, sometimes you’ve got to take some risks and throw some bodies forward, play on spirit, play on heart, make some noise in the crowd and cause them a bit of worry, and some of the younger ones don’t understand that yet.
“They keep playing the same way, which is ok, but I thought there was a moment in the last ten minutes when they were there for the taking. We had a good go, but that was probably driven from us at the side as opposed to being driven on the pitch, so that’s something we’ve got to learn from.”
On a life-changing trip
“It’s been an unbelievable trip. We’ve had great opponents, a good challenge for our boys, bringing the group we brought, worried isn’t the right word, but you are always concerned that it’s going to be high standard opponents for a very young group.
“We got one win and two defeats and we’d have liked to have done better than that, but I thought out performances in two of the games were ok, one of them wasn’t, but the facilities, the training ground, the altitude, getting to understand the players socially and getting to know more about them, getting to know which ones pick up the tactical stuff and which ones don’t, we’ve learned a lot and hopefully they’ve learned a lot.
“Probably, more importantly, they’re not all going to be top footballers these boys, so hopefully they’ll remember experiences like this for the rest of their lives and that’s just as an important part.
“We chose to come here for that reason, because with the group that we had, we could’ve gone somewhere else and had some friendly games, but we felt coming here would be life-changing for some of them, and I think it has been.”
As the trip draws to a close, James Collins reflects on last night's game and the US adventure overall.— Wolves Academy (@WolvesAcademy) July 28, 2022
On players’ conduct while in America
“Their behaviour’s been impeccable, I say that when we’ve still got a night to go, and the way they’ve mixed with the locals, the way they’ve represented the football club, I have to say that I’ve been nothing but impressed. They’ve been a credit to their guardians and parents, and how they’ve mixed with each other has been excellent.
“What I have said to them is that it’s the three games on the pitch that matter when you’re a footballer and they have been very hit and miss. One good, one great result where we showed spirit, and one poor. So that’s something they’ve got to learn, and even with the heat and with all the stuff going on, they’ve got to learn in those key moments to put the performances out on the pitch.
“I always say this, but I don’t know what the 11 will be when we play Chelsea on the first day of the season – it could be eight of them or it could be none of them. That will all depend on the boys who go on loan, etcetera.
“What it will do for these boys is hopefully bring them on. We’ve brought a number of the 18s who had just been to Switzerland and as the under-15s progress to 16s, the 16s progress to 18s and the 18s to 21s, hopefully they’ll see the progression and they see the levels they have to reach when you make that jump. And if they have done that, then it would have been a worthwhile trip.”
On missing players to the first-team
“I was speaking to one of the American guys before the game and that’s what it’s all about. If we’d have come here with our strongest group, we could have won all three games, we’d be patting ourselves on the back, but nobody’s with the first-team – and that’s what it’s about.
“Our club and our gaffer are brilliant at wanting to use the players, wanting to see the players, wanting to give the players an opportunity in and around the group, and pre-season is a very important time for that.
“Harvey [Griffiths], Hodgy [Joe Hodge], Dexter [Lembikisa]; they’ll have spent a good two or three weeks with the first-team staff and they’ll really get to know them now, and that hopefully stands them in good stead.”
Salt Lake City, it's been a pleasure.— Wolves Academy (@WolvesAcademy) July 29, 2022
Time to head home.
On preparing for the start of the PL2 season
“We’ve got a long flight home, but the boys will have the weekend off, although some are going over with the first-team for their two games they’ve got, so that will be a test for them to fly back from here and then go straight to Portugal, but again, what a great experience that is.
“Early on in the week it will be a bit lighter and then we’ll get ourselves going for the game the Monday after.
“We’ll have a bit of recovery now, and have a week going into the game, which we’re looking forwards to.”