James Collins believes his under-23 players still have room to improve, despite Wolves progressing to the Premier League Cup final with victory over Middlesbrough at Molineux.
Lee Harkin’s goal within the opening minute was added to by Luke Cundle’s brace, but two goals from Boro, including one in the final minute of the game led to a nervy finish, but Collins’ side were able to get over the line to set up a final meeting against Black Country neighbours West Bromwich Albion – which will take place on a date and venue still to be confirmed.
On making it into the final
“It got a bit nervy at the end, but I’ve said it a few times since Christmas, that I thought we deserved it. Some of the football was excellent and I said to the players that they’re spoiling us a bit with some of the football they’re playing, and we’re getting used to it as if it’s the norm.
“Some of the one and two touches were magnificent at times, but we made it a little bit closer than maybe it should have been because some of our transitions weren’t as good as we’d like them to be, so there’s always stuff to work on.
“I’m delighted to win the game against a team that’s got several first-team players in who gave it a right good go, and for us to win the game 3-2, we’re delighted.”
On getting off to a quick start
“It’s the team talk! We obviously want to start well and we talk about starting well and how we’re going to start well, but there are moments – at Norwich last week, we picked up the second ball and the first pass was positive, so there are reasons for it, but you need that little bit of luck as well, but they’ve got to produce the movements, which was outstanding to score the goal, but then you know it’s a long way after that.
“I thought we played well after that, but then they scored and knocked the stuffing out of us, and there were spells throughout the game when they had control. We handled them reasonably well and I thought we had more controlled spells than they had, and we used our spells better than they did theirs.
“It was a tight game, a tough game, and we’re delighted to come out on the right side.”
On facing Middlesbrough’s first-team players
“That’s what you expect when you get to this stage of the season. The Championship season is coming to an end, the League Two season is coming to an end and the League One season has come to an end, so everyone comes back from their loans, and when you’re in semi-finals and finals, some clubs want to play their best players to try and win – there’s nothing wrong with that – so the standard cranks up at this stage of the season.
“But that’s what we want. We want to play against the best players. We’ve done the same with Luke [Cundle] and Yerson [Mosquera]; they’re young players, but they’re first-team players at our club who don’t play every week and they drop in to help us, but it also helps them, and we look forward to continuing to do that.”
On Cundle’s brace
“For us this season, when he’s been playing, he’s been excellent. It’s been a brilliant season for him. We all say the same thing every time we speak about him; we love the kid and he’s a great personality, a great character and has done well when he’s been in and around the first-team, and we all watch with interest to see how well he can do and how many games he can get for them.
“But he texts me to ask if he can play and you don’t get that often with players who go up to the first-team. They’re not desperate to play for the under-23s, but he just wants to play football. We could get a ball out now and have a five-a-side on the car park and he’d want a game, and when you’re a coach, you love players who are like that because they love the game.
“I thought he was excellent tonight, he got his goals, but he was missing some as well, so I thought he could’ve got even more goals and I’ll be challenging him to do that.”
On aiming for a promotion and cup double
“It’s brilliant to be involved in. I said to the players before the game that this is what they work for and what you want to be involved in. Our job is to get them noticed, either by our manager or other managers who would like to take them on a good loan, and the way you get noticed is by playing well and winning games, and we’re doing that at the moment.
“At this stage of the season, I’ve seen the scout list for tonight and there were some managers from different clubs who will be looking at these players for loans next season, and if you’re playing well in games at the end of the season, and winning, that’s always a positive, and that’s what we want to do – win as many games as we can and finish the season strongly.
“We’ve got a really good bunch of players in there who fight for each other, work for each other, and represent this football club brilliantly well. Hopefully they’ll get their reward at the end of the season with either a promotion or a cup, or hopefully both. But whatever happens, they’ve represented this football club brilliantly.”