Walker | 'The lads are in a resilient place'

Under-18s head coach Richard Walker admitted his side weren’t performing at their best in the 1-1 league draw with Nottingham Forest, but was pleased to see the players’ development on the psychological side of the game while giving an important opportunity to a handful of under-16 starlets on Saturday afternoon.

Wolves returned to Compton in sublime fashion, with Dani Angel putting the hosts 1-0 ahead after just six minutes of play in the U18 Premier League match against Nottingham Forest. Despite not being able to clinch the full three points from what he described as a very transitional game, Walker lauded the positive vibe inside the dressing room after going four games unbeaten ahead of Tuesday’s exciting U17 Premier League Cup semi-final clash against Stoke City.

On the performance

“Overall, pleasing to take the point. They were a good, hard-working side. The game was extremely transitional. Both sides had massive amounts of sustained spells of possession and when it becomes transitional like that, it becomes a little bit like a running game. I thought the lads showed real determination in terms of how hard they were willing to run for each other.

“In terms of the first half, we got off to a flyer. A fantastic pass from Caden Voice over the defender and a great move from Dani to get in behind the defender. In those one-on-one situations, you back him, so I’m pleased with the progress he’s made individually. It got us off to a fantastic start.

“The first 25 minutes we played very well in all aspects but then relinquished the momentum a little bit. In terms of what was most pleasing to me was to see the players’ response to that, because we didn’t have it easy in the latter parts of the half. Forest were in the ascendency. I thought we showed good determination and togetherness. We weren’t playing well, but the body language and the composure were good to write that out.”

On the long half-time team talk

“At half-time, we had a few despondent faces in the dressing room because they set high standards for themselves and we just spoke about what we needed to do to regain the momentum. They took it on board and did it really well.

“Whilst again, the second half wasn’t free-flowing and pretty on the eye, we were having the chances. I think they had one chance at the end where we switched off from a set-play and they hit the bar from the back-post, but other than that we were having the chances. If anyone was going to score I felt it was going to be us.”

On subbing five players on at once

“Naturally, when we make five substitutions to give young lads opportunities, which is fantastic and what we are about as an academy, it slightly disrupts a certain element of the structure. In a transitional game, this means there’s always the chance they might nick something, but the communication and management of that situation from the boys was really pleasing.

“Technically we could have been better and passed the ball better, but the psychological corner of the game really pleased me. It’s something I’m seeing development in.”

On giving U16s more opportunities

“There’s an element making sure that the U16s get that next step because our primary objective is to create a pathway that can be stretched for their development. And it’s about the development of individuals.

“Generally speaking, if we’re developing individuals, results by large will probably show a little bit of evidence of that, but they may not. That’s what we’re about. Lads who’ve done well in the U16s will get their opportunities. We’ve many starters from there this season.

“Alvin Ayman, who came on today, has been doing very well both with the U16s and the U18s, so it was good to give him the opportunity. Also, we’ve got a big game ahead of us on Tuesday and the substitutions helped us share the workload with that in mind.”

On the semi-final against Stoke

“We’re four undefeated now in competitive games, so the lads are in a resilient place. I think the mood in the camp is that in the past two games that we’ve dropped points in we’ve deserved to win, so it’s a positive vibe.

“In terms of the game on Tuesday, I think ultimately we’ve said all season let’s do what we do and stick to our process. If we do what we do well we should get a performance. If we get a performance, the chances are that we’ll get a result.

“Overall, I think the players individually are making great progress and I think that’s becoming more and more evident.”

Interview by Eetu Ikola