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Wolves U23s coach Edwards: ‘Nuno’s made my job so hard’

Wolves Under-23s coach Rob Edwards admits he and his staff must raise their game to to produce players for the first team become their success has made it ‘unbelievably hard’.
Edwards’s side are currently top of Premier League 2 with four games to go and Elliot Watt, Pedro Goncalves, Ryan Giles, Niall Ennis and Benny Ashley-Seal have all made fleeting steps up to the senior level this season from the Under-23s.
But only England Under-19s midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White – whose rise has been described as ‘freakish’ by Edwards – has established himself as a regular in the senior squad.
Providing a route to the top is something Edwards is desperate to keep open for the Molineux youngsters, but it’s getting increasingly difficult.
“It’s unbelievably hard. But that’s what we said as staff and players – we have all got to raise our game,” Edwards told www.wolvesbite.com
“What the manager, his staff and the players have done is nothing short of remarkable.
“We all want to see homegrown lads coming through and in the academy, that’s what we strive for.
“But we also know that the first team are going to such a level that we have to catch up fast.
“They have done it with a plan they have stuck to, and you can see the success from it. That’s what we have got to do below that.
“We’ve got to really up our game and be as good as we can be. I think the lads are showing that; they’re trying their best, they’re giving everything, and us as a staff have got to do the same as well.”
Edwards says it’s hard to gauge how close any of the youngsters are to forcing their way into Nuno’s plans.
“It’s honestly difficult to say. The first team are at such a level now, it’s always going to be difficult for them to break in,” he added.
“Morgan (Gibbs-White) is a bit of a freak in a good way because he’s been able to do that, but we’ve got to continue to work hard and perform.”
Wolves currently have 25 players out on loan, of which 14 are in, or have come through, the club’s academy.
Edwards admits gaining experience out on loan is vital for many players below the first team.
“Everyone’s journey is different; there might be one who can do it, depending on position and how well they do,” he stressed.
“Some might have two or three loans over the next 18 months or so and then maybe, and some might have a different path.
“The brutal stats will be that we’ve got to recruit good, top players within the academy to compete with the top local lads in the academy as well.
“That’s the ruthless nature of football. I don’t mean recruitment from abroad, it can be from elsewhere around the country.
“We’re spreading the net wider – you can see what we’ve done in the first team anyway as a club, so that’s a big part of it as well.”
But the emergence of Gibbs-White, who has now made 49 senior appearances, has acted as an inspiration to his peers in the younger age group and led to a touching moment that Edwards will always remember.
“He’s really good mates with a lot of the boys, so they see it (pathway),” added the coach.
“There was a lovely, touching moment that I will remember forever – Niall came on against Shrewsbury and him and Morgan quickly embraced.
“It was a really nice moment because Niall has had to be really patient, he has seen other people going on and getting their chance when he’s had his injuries and he’s gone through a tough period.
“That was probably my favourite moment of the season so far.”
Given his liking for spectacular goals, after his stunning strike against Manchester United’s Under-23s earlier in the season, Ennis is many people’s tip for the top.
Edwards is understandably cautious about tipping him for stardom.
“I’m not for one second saying he should be in the first team or anything like that, he’s just got to continue to work really hard then good things will happen, because he’s a good person and a good player,” he said.
“Whether it’s here or somewhere else, he will go on to good things, I know that.”
At just 19, the striker has already been through more serious injuries than many players might do in their careers.
But he has battled back and Edwards believes his time in the treatment room might yet be the making of him.
“Sometimes lads who go on to have top careers have had to go through some dark times and they’ve had some real lows,” he said.
“Niall has had a few of those with his injuries, but he’s a mentally strong lad.
“It is up there (points to his head) where it really matters so that’s really important.
“He has shown a lot of that. The remit for someone like Niall this year is to get fit, keep fit and then he will be flying, and that’s what he’s doing at the moment.
“He’s a bit of a lovable rogue; he loves a laugh and a joke and a chat but he’s just a genuinely nice lad.
“But he’s had to be resilient as well. You’ve got to have that in the game.”