In just their second week back at Compton it’s already been a hectic pre-season for Rob Edwards and his Wolves under-23 side as preparations begin for their first season in the top flight of development football.
Following last season’s title-winning campaign, the under-23s will compete in the Premier League 2 Division 1 this year, alongside the top youth teams in the country. But there have been several changes to the playing personnel, including incomings and departures from the side, as well as many of the under-23s training with Nuno Espirito Santo’s first-team.
However, with a 2-1 pre-season friendly win over AFC Wulfrunians on Saturday, followed by a 6-1 victory against Hednesford Town on Wednesday night, it's been a positive start to the 2019/20 season for former Wolves defender Edwards.
On pre-season preparations
“It’s been a great pre-season so far, very much similar to last year. In pre-season there’s always a lot going on and players are sort of everywhere.
“Some are wanting to try and get out on loan, some are new in and new to the building and some are training with the first-team, so there’s a lot to manage and stay on top of, especially with an under-23 group, because they get pulled around and have to be everywhere.
“This is the nature of an under-23 side, but first and foremost we must make sure we are supporting the first-team, while at the same time, our level of training and our standards must remain high. Whoever steps into the group has to keep doing the same things. Our team can change on a daily basis, so whoever we have, we need to keep our work going.
“We will have a plan and try to stick to it, knowing that all the time we’re making decisions and basing our work around what the first-team need, especially this year with the team doing so well and making it to the Europa League, their pre-season is really important as they have to make sure they have the right numbers and the right people to help them through their games programme.”
On plans for the season ahead
“We’ve already seen a lot of changes to the under-23s from last season; Ryan Giles has gone out on loan, and the plan is for a lot of our lads who did well last year to go out on loan.
“Many of our players are also training with the first-team, but whether the first-team staff want to use any of our lads this season then it’s up to them, and if any of them do get an opportunity then I’m sure they will give it their very best.”
On changes to under-23 personnel
“Rafa Nya, Hong Wan and Tsun Dai have all come in and settled in well to the group and we’re pleased to have them on board.
“Like we had last year, we want a competitive group, and all our new signings will need to raise their levels to match that of the first-team. Every single player will need to work really hard and be consistent in what they do.
“There are going to be a lot of changes to our group over the season, with lads leaving the club on either permanent deals – such as Pedro Goncalves and Joao Dias who have joined Famalicao – or on loans; we’ve already seen Ryan Giles go to Shrewsbury.
“Our job is to try and develop players, and although they did great last season as a group, they have to go forward in their career; whether that’s with our first-team or with another club.
“We have to try and move players on when the time is right for them to get first-team football, but they have to try and get themselves first-team football by playing as well as they can – so we expect there to be a high turnover in the under-23s this year.”
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