The Secret Scout: Wolves Youth Report
Every Tuesday The Secret Scout will take an in-depth look at a Premier League club’s youth prospects and how they might make an impact on your Footstock portfolio. Quite simply, this is the most comprehensive trading analysis of a club’s youth system that you will find.
All information in this article is valid as of February 2020.
Head Coach: Nuno Espirito Santo
Assistant Head Coach: Rui Silva
First Team Coach: Julio Figueroa
First Team Coach: Ian Cathro
Assistant First Team Coach: Joao Lapa
Academy Manager: Scott Sellars
U23 Manager: James Collins
U18 Manager: Steve Davis
Sporting Director: Kevin Thelwell
Chief Scout: John Marshall
Current Premier League Position: 9th.
Current Premier League 2 (PL2) Position: 12th in PL2 Division 1.
Reigning PL2 Division 2 Champions (18/19).
Youth Academy Primary Ground: New Bucks Head, Telford, Shropshire.
Rui Patricio is the clear number 1 at the club and, considering Nuno used to be a Goalkeeper in his playing days, his loyalty to Patricio will undoubtedly remain for at least a further 2-3 seasons. Regardless, Patricio’s a solid Goalkeeper with outstanding shot stopping abilities. His first team regular status doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
The clear path for advancement here would be if John Ruddy were to leave the club when his contract expires in the summer, thus promoting one of the above five Under 19’s at the club.
Andreas Sondergaard is the sole Footstock representative here so we’ll focus on him. Currently priced at (10p) – and with potential to become Patricio’s understudy – he looks a risk worth taking in my eyes. The highly rated Dane has drawn (albeit lazy) comparisons to Schmeichel, but from what I’ve seen his agility is his greatest attribute. High possibilities of progression at a criminally low price, Sondergaard’s potential value is only bolstered by the fact that Wolves aren’t getting relegated anytime soon and, if they continue to develop, have every chance of European involvement in seasons to come. One of these young keepers will break through.
Behind Sondergaard are four gifted young English Goalkeepers who will all be looking to make the step up next season to becoming the regular U23 starter at the Molyneux academy. Of the four, Jackson Smith has caught my eye. Signed to a longer term Pro contract, he seems to have all the mental and physical attributes to progress to one day taking that number 1 jersey. Talented.
With Wolves’ 3-4-3 (or 3-5-2) formation relying heavily on their wingbacks for production and output, taking a look at how the next generation is being coached in the same formation is fascinating. Beneath the two existing first team players in squad depth (under the age of 23) are Max Kilman & Ruben Vinagre. We can see that behind them is an absolute veritable train of talent waiting to break out.
Having watched quite a lot of the PL2 Division 2 title winning side last season (managed by Rob Edwards), it’s clear that the production line is being geared up to produce talent in two key areas:
– Centre Backs who play in a ‘3’ at the back and are comfortable with ball distribution.
– Wingbacks (L&R) who are high energy, high work rate and have attacking output capability.
I’ll split the analysis into 2 groups to separate their abilities & attributes, but first it’s important to try to envisage how the path is going to clear for these youngsters to potentially get 1st team football: whether it be in the Carabao Cup or potentially European football next season.
After the recent January 2020 transfer window I thought it was key that Ryan Bennett was allowed to leave for Leicester (on-loan). Currently the back 3 of Saiss, Dendoncker & Coady look solid, but in my opinion one (or if not two) of these young Centre Backs is going to emerge soon under Nuno for 2020/21.
Three is the Magic Number
So let’s have a look at some of the Footstock potential candidates who are best equipped to make the jump into that efficient Wolves back 3:
Owen Otasowie (USA) (18) (35p):
Categorised on Footstock as a Midfielder, this young American player is equally equipped to play in a holding defensive midfield role or as a Centre Back. He’s garnered a reputation for himself as a player with a bright future. Tall, calm on the ball and with excellent tackling abilities he reminds me of something akin to a young Yaya/Kolo Toure mix. Prospect.
Lewis Richards (IRE/ENG) (18) (20p):
Last year’s Academy Player of the Season, Lewis is winning favourable reviews for his range of passing, distribution and overall commitment to improving his game. Playing on the left side of the three CB’s, his stature and appearance remind me of another gold and black academy legend: Joleon Lescott. At this price it seems a sound long term investment in my eyes. Best equipped to succeed over the next 5 years.
Max Kilman (ENG) (22) (27p):
Arguably the reason Ryan Bennett was allowed to leave is Nuno’s ability to trust Saiss & Kilman longer term. Tall and with a languid style, Kilman possesses surprisingly good dribbling abilities for a player of his stature. At this price point he poses one immediate risk: his contract is up in the summer. You have to think they will get something done and not let him leave on a free, but until then question marks exist over the long term for Max.
Of those players not currently on Footstock, there are a quartet of International Centre Backs to watch out for: Daniel Csoka (Hungarian), Raphael Nya (French) signed from PSG, Christian Marques (Swiss) and, perhaps most excitingly, the recently signed Nigel Lonwijk (Dutch) acquired from PSV.
On the Wings of a Wolf
Now moving onto the wide positions: Who’s going to outrun Jonny Castro Otto & Doherty long term?
Ruben Vinagre (POR) (20) (89p):
Possibly the obvious choice on the left, but at 20 years old Vinagre will be for a while the backup. Nonetheless, he’ll be pushing for a starting berth very soon. Capped at almost every youth level for Portugal, Vinagre’s price is cheap in relation to his talent. Fairly self explanatory: he’s a key part of a youth investment strategy on Footstock over the long term for the next 2-3 seasons.
Oskar Buur (Rasmussen) (DEN) (21) (14p):
Once upon a time, I’d have swore blindly this was the man who would be Doherty’s understudy as the right wing back. With that said, mostly due to the man below, I can’t be so sure anymore. Neat, tidy and an excellent crosser of the ball, you can’t fault Buur’s ability. Unfortunately for the Dane, I think now he’s fallen down the pecking order. Potentially.
Luke Matheson (ENG) (17) (Xp): (Not on Footstock: Loaned back to Rochdale)
The clearest of clear intentions that this man is, in fact, the future of that right wing back. Anyone who has followed Rochdale this season knows just how talented this kid is. Don’t let the Harry Styles lookalike fool you: he’s dynamic, direct and possesses an amazing ‘football brain’ for someone so young. When his card appears (possibly 20/21), snap it up. You won’t regret it.
Other players yet to break onto the platform worth a mention in this position are: Jed Abbey, Hugo Bueno, John Kitolane and the equally exciting right wingback of Jack Scott.
Real strength in depth in this position for Wolves.
Firstly, let’s get this out of the way: Unless he’s sold, Ruben Neves is the epitome of a safe purchase for your Footstock Portfolio. At £2.18 currently, aged 22 and with assured stats and regular playing time, he’s as safe as houses. I’d genuinely pay > £4 for his Footstock card, I really would.
Predicting how these youngsters are going to break through has now been made all the more complicated by Wolves’ January transfer dealings. Bringing in Enzo Loiodice and Daniel Podence are signings significant enough to have me believe that the 2020/21 season is going to see one of a few potential ‘shifts’ in their midfield positions. So, using logical thinking, who’s ‘next in line’?
Morgan Gibbs White (ENG) (20) (£1.02)
Seems like we’ve been waiting forever for this to happen – it’s incredible to think he’s still only 20. That U17 World Cup feels like a lifetime ago. Still, reportedly he’s eliminated the injury gremlins now and purchasing his card is a measured bet that one day he will finally take his chance. Very possibly the natural successor to Joao Moutinho.
Pedro Neto (POR) (19) (£1.64)
Still not sure exactly where this kid’s best position actually is, and that’s probably his greatest attribute. Is he a number 7? Is he a backup number 9 to Raul Jimenez? He can play almost anywhere along that front 3 and, ultimately, as a partnership if they do convert to a front two. Bags of talent and ability at his age. Amazing long term hold potential on Footstock.
Chem Campbell (WAL) (17) (70p)
Part of a trio of Welsh young midfielders including Owen Hesketh and Terry Taylor, it’s Chem Campbell’s rare, pure footballing ability that stands out. Oozes class and ability on the ball and runs games from midfield. The one who will break through: of that I have little doubt. A matter of if, not when.
Slim pickings here, especially in relation to viable long term options on Footstock. I’m not expecting Patrick Cutrone back from his jaunt in Florence anytime soon, which is a huge shame with the ability he possesses.
Bernard Ashley Seal (ENG) (21) (26p)
Out on loan at Kidderminster, a lot is expected of Benny. Prolific at U23 level, he was handed a start in the FA Cup vs Man Utd but didn’t really showcase his true ability. Tall with quick feet and an eye for goal, he can hold the ball up with his back to goal too. Highly rated.
So, having looked at nearly 80 players under the age of 23, what conclusions can be drawn from Wolves’ Youth policy going forward? Most importantly, how can you invest your Footstock Portfolios to get maximum exposure?
In the short term (remainder of 19/20), it’s going to be much of the same for people that like to play tournaments on Footstock. Owning the five big hitters will continue to pay off: Jimenez, Adama Traore, Doherty, Moutinho and Neves.
I’d pay specific attention now to building up exposure to ‘fringe’ Wolves players with the reintroduction of the Europa League contests on Footstock where rotation could be important. This should mean opportunities for the likes of Ruben Vinagre on the left side of the 3-4-3. Nuno is not known for heavy rotation, but those wingbacks can’t play 90 minutes Thursday weekends.
Those who like to invest in player cards for the medium to longer term, Footstock has provided an excellent opportunity to purchase cards in youth prospects at Molineux. They may not have immediate tournament value, and are pretty useless in the Roulette section due to not possessing PPG through lack of playing time, but over the longer term and given the correct playing chances under Nuno, some of these prospects can break through.
Adama Traore was once 11p on Footstock. He’s now £16+. As they say – quality will always surface. The Eye Test doesn’t usually lie.
Monitor the impact on the first team of the recent signings Enzo Loiodice and Daniel Podence and continue to track future U23/U18 prospects as they are added to the ever growing Footstock database.
Hi ho Wolverhampton.