New under-23 head coach James Collins is looking forwards to getting his Wolves career underway as he leads the side out against Leicester City in Premier League 2 Division 1 this evening.
The former head of coaching at Crewe Alexandra joined Wolves earlier this week after 32 years with the Railwaymen, a club he initially joined at just nine-years-old as an Academy prospect.
After progressing through the system to become a first-team player at Gretsy Road, the 41-year-old knows exactly what it takes for young players to make it at the top of their profession.
On taking charge against Leicester
“I’ve watched the games from December, and I felt they lacked a little bit of goal-threat. Benny [Ashley-Seal] has obviously got a couple of goals, but they still lack a bit of a threat in front of goal.
“They’ve controlled games, had good possession in those games, they just need to start turning the draws into wins.
“I know it’s going to be a little bit more difficult tonight as the FA Cup game with the first-team has seen three players gone over there with them, which again is great for them because that’s what it’s all about, but it makes it a bit harder to win games of football at under-23 level. However, that will give the younger players a chance to come into the squad and prove what they can do.
“I think tonight’s game will be tough. Leicester have won something like nine out of their last ten games, they’re strong and competitive, always have a good team out, but it will be good and I’m excited for it being my first game.”
On his first week at Wolves
“It’s been great. The staff have been unbelievably welcoming – a lot more staff from where I’ve come from, but now I’ve just got to try and remember all the names which has been difficult!
“Everyone’s welcomed me and couldn’t have been more kind. I’ve already settled in and the players have been terrific in the first couple of days.”
On leaving Crewe after 32 years
“It’s quite unique in football to have been at the same club since being a nine-year-old kid. I must’ve done every role there! The club means a lot to me and it was difficult to leave, but it was the right time and I wanted a new challenge.
“This club is on the up and has a lot of similar values to what they had at Crewe and they’re a close-knit bunch. There weren’t many other places I would have wanted to come to, but this opportunity was too good of an opportunity to turn down.”
On his aims for the under-23s
“My job is to fit in with the framework of what’s being done here at Wolves. They’ve been doing a terrific job of getting young players through the system, but my job is to make the players better.
“If I can do that and get them to where they want to be, whether that’s the first-team here or whether that’s as high as they possibly can elsewhere, then that will be the aim. But my job is just to improve them and make them better footballers, as well as people.”
On 14 under-23s making the first-team squad this season
“I’ll be honest, that’s one of the main reasons I’ve come here. I can’t imagine anything worse than being an under-23s coach at a club and knowing you won’t get any of your players into the first-team as there is no pathway through.
“Here at Wolves, they will get an opportunity. Even in the few days I’ve been here, seven or eight players a day have been going over to train with the first-team, which is a great experience for them to see how the first-team works, see how Nuno works and it really inspires them.
“The first-team seem a terrific bunch with a lot of togetherness, and they will give great lessons for the under-23s to learn. That can only be a good thing for young players at the football club – right from the young under-9s at the Academy upwards.
“If you can see a chance to make it through to the first-team that, in my experience, is a real driving factor for improving.”