James Collins felt his Wolves side produced a professional performance against one of the top teams in under-23 football as they held West Ham United to a goalless draw in the Premier League Cup.
Wolves all but guaranteed a spot in the last 16 of the competition by maintaining their 100 per cent record in the group stages against the Premier League 2 Division 1 leaders, but the head coach was pleased with how his players bounced back from two under-par showings against Norwich City and Fulham in the previous week to be not only a solid outfit at the back but also be a threat going forwards, with his side creating the best of the opportunities.
On an improved performance at West Ham
“It was really hard-fought. We’ve come to West Ham, who are top of the top division, four or five of theirs played in the Europa League last week and I thought it was a really professional performance.
“We were top of the group, we beat them at home, so to come here, away from home, and get a good point to almost guarantee progression, I thought we did a really professional job.”
On tightening up at the back
“What we did really well today, having conceded five against Norwich and four against Fulham – Norwich have been whacking goals in against everyone and Fulham are top of our league – it was two tough games we’d had.
“But I saw signs against Fulham that we were starting to respond to the work we’d been doing and this week, we’ve worked really hard at getting back to what we’re good at, which is being a really good shape, press from the right areas of the pitch, and I thought we did that really well today. We frustrated them without the ball and I thought we had one or two really good moments with the ball.
“We definitely could have nicked it at the end, the goalkeeper made a really good save from Tinks [Tyler Roberts], the foul was close on the line, I thought it was close to being a penalty, and we had the offside goal we did score.
“I can’t remember Louie [Moulden] having a really significant stop to make, he made a really good punch at the end, so we defended our box really, really well and we penetrated theirs reasonably well.”
On improving the players
“I still think we can do better with the ball at times, but to come after the week we’d had, it’s really pleasing, especially after we had eight under-18s on the pitch at the end.
“I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but that’s hard for them to play at under-23 level all together, but what they do, is that they’re good kids, they work really hard and they’ll get better quickly.
“That’s the plan and that’s what the club’s decision is. It’s good when they come out of a game with a good result.”
On working with a young under-23 squad
“I just said to Tinks and Nathan [Fraser] in there, I thought they were excellent. Tinks nearly scored, and they came on and they’ve got to be really accustomed and tuned in to what their role is without the ball, because at first-team level, that matters.
“Maybe at 15, 16, 17 it doesn’t, but once you get to under-23s and first-team level, that matters, and I thought they started to pick it up really well. They’re inquisitive to how they can do it better and that’s all you want as a coach.
“You want them to want to learn, you want them to want to get better, and they definitely do, and that’s credit to the younger age group coaches at the academy, so when they come to us, at such a young age, they’re equipped to adapt to the tactical elements of the game, so credit to Steve [Davis] and all those who have taken them at a younger age.”
On the Christmas schedule
“There’s a bit of a mixed plan for everybody. We’ve got Newcastle next Monday and then we’ll have some of the players available for first-team training, because the first-team have such a busy schedule over that time.
“Some of the foreign boys will go home and get a week with their families, and some of the UK-based boys will get some time at home with their families.
“It’s important to get that balance, because it’s important that they get some time with their families, but also, if you want to be a professional footballer you work over Christmas – I’m afraid. That’s life.
“I’m sure there will come a time in their lives when they’ll get a bit of time over Christmas.”