International travel for tours and tournaments has always provided a crucial stage in a player’s development, and since restrictions were lifted after the pandemic, Wolves have taken the opportunity to take youth programs to the next level.
Since restrictions were eased in April, Wolves Academy has taken four separate groups abroad, as well as numerous trips to the UK, helping the holistic development of age groups from under 9 to the under 23 group of James Collins.
Throughout the campaign, the under-19s visited Switzerland, the under-11s and under-12s headed to Lyon, France, to face Bayern Munich and Villarreal and the under-13s and under-14s were involved in a tournament in Dubai, providing a wide range of experiences and cultures to sample.
— Wolves Academy (@WolvesAcademy) April 9, 2022
Darren Ryan, Head of Player Development, leads on this front and believes that visiting other countries, both for new challenges on the pitch, as well as visiting famous landmarks and experiencing different cultures, is crucial to each player’s holistic development.
Ryan said: “It’s amazing to have international travel back. It was a big part of our program before Covid, giving players the experience of playing against teams from different countries, experiencing different cultures and putting them in more pressured situations.
“Education is a huge part of academia and yes it is football, but there are also the life experiences that they gain. When we go out, we talk to the organizers and when we have free time, we look at the experiences the boys can have in different countries, not just on a football field there. We have Premier League tournaments and ours, but the experiences of going to foreign countries are huge.”
Ryan has been with Wolves for over ten years, initially taking on the role of head coach for the youth development phase, before taking the reins as assistant under-23, head under-18 coach and, in February 2021, manager of elite player development.
During his time at the club he saw Wolves compete in the Championship and League One, so he enjoyed the journey to where the club is now in a strong position to attract invitations to international tournaments.
He said: “It comes from the success of the football club we are being invited to. We are inundated with invitations to tournaments and that is to the credit of the football club and the academy. This academy has developed a lot in the last two or three years. We are producing the best players, playing football with an identity in and out of possession, and that feedback comes from notable academies across the country.
“When we are in these tournaments, the coaches put challenges for them – we were in Switzerland, for example, with the pressure of hoping to win. I’ve been here for ten years and we always used to go abroad to these tournaments for the experience, but now we’re also going to compete and go as far as we can in these tournaments. Shows how far the academy and club have come.
“The reputation we have as a gym is now growing. After our most successful season as an academy, we cannot stand still, we have to evolve and move forward. We have to keep pushing and take this academy forward. As the football club progresses, the academy needs to progress, and the things we did during Covid were fantastic, but these tournaments are huge for development going forward.”
Wolves Academy enjoys the full support of the club, and the recent restructuring that saw Jon Hunter-Barrett and Laura Nicholls take over the academy’s responsibilities will provide further support and support for future international travel.
— Darren Ryan (@darrenryan11) May 27, 2022
With pre-season plans already underway ahead of the 2022/23 season, Ryan is organizing national and international trips for the club’s young players as part of a wider group that is improving every year, with Wolves being an option. more attractive than ever. before.
He said: “The support we have from the club and the board is huge. The level of players we are attracting and developing is now at another level than we were five years ago. We have to produce Premier League players, and the more experience we can give them playing against foreign opponents abroad, the better. This will only improve our program and the individuals, playing against different teams, different coaches and different systems. As I keep coming back, we have to produce individuals who can play in the Premier League.
“The under-18s are going to Switzerland this summer and will spend a week at the Grasshoppers training complex, which has fantastic facilities, and will play two games against Grasshoppers and Winterthur. We’re talking about where the under-23s go for pre-season and the under-16s have a big tournament in Germany. Some of the under-16s will participate in the under-18 pre-season tour, as many of them played for the under-18s last season.
“If the younger players are acting, they are challenged with the older age groups and that’s right in the academy – we’re here to produce and challenge the individual. We have a busy pre-season coming up and it is an extremely exciting time for Wolves Academy.”