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Wolves looking for ‘top four’ goalkeeper claims coach

Wolves are looking to develop goalkeepers good enough to help the club qualify for the Champions League.

Portugal’s No 1 Rui Patricio, the club’s current first choice, is acknowledged as one of the top 10 keepers in the world and the 32-year-old cost around £15m from Sporting Lisbon last summer.

England capped John Ruddy, 31, has been the regular between the sticks in the cups this season after being the regular as the club swept to the Championship title last term.

In the last decade and a half Wolves were blessed to produce three goalkeepers themselves that distinguished themselves between the sticks for the club and at international level in Matt Murray (England Under-21s), Wales’ Wayne Hennessey and Carl Ikeme (Nigeria).

But Wolves are already looking beyond those to attract the best in that department in years to come as they continue to try to fulfil their ambitions of reinstating the club as among the best in the land.

Wolves Under-23s goalkeeping coach Aled Williams said: “The biggest thing now is the pressure, because we’re not looking for Championship or even Premier League goalkeepers any more, but for a top four keeper.

I’m not sure why Wolves have such a heritage of producing top goalkeepers, but in the last four years we’ve had to look into recruiting a lot more.

I believe we have a strong contingency of goalkeepers. We’ve got Andreas (Sondegaard) who’s with the Denmark national team, Jackson Smith and Joe Young are in and around England (age group squads), Luke Armstrong has been involved with the Wales squads and that international exposure also helps us here.

But we’re not just recruiting the right goalkeepers but the right people for the club as well – those who hold the club’s values at heart and want to progress into our first team, which is something we drum into the lads.

They’ve got to hold their values, they’ve got to hold their standards and they’ve got to have that winning mindset.”

The young keepers from Wolves academy and Under-23s regularly train with the first team to gain experience of the environment the senior professionals operate in, and Patricio and Ruddy actively help their younger peers.

Rui (Barbosa, goalkeeping coach) will take Andreas down for sessions,” said Williams. “He has worked with the younger keepers at various points and the feedback I usually receive is that Rui has been brilliant with them, and the experience of working with John (Ruddy) has been invaluable.

The more they can spend time in and around the first-team players, the better.”

In an interview with Wolves’ matchday programme, Williams explained: “Andreas trains with the first team at just 17, so when he’s in the games with them, how does he speak to Conor Coady and the other players at the back?

We want to expose them to that as early as we can so they’re ready for the challenges they will face.

The first team took Andreas away with them on their pre-season tour. But I always tell our goalkeepers that you never know when you’re going to get called up, so you’ve got to be ready for it.”

Part of the process of integrating the younger keepers with the senior ones is the value of talking to team-mates.

Communication is massively important,” added Williams. “If you can stop shots and crosses at the source, then great. But even if your team is in possession, can you be calm and collective with how you think because you can see the pitch, you can see the next pass?

It’s so important that we get the goalkeepers to be proactive. We do a lot of classroom sessions on it – we’ve just had John Ruddy videoed from his small-sided games on the training pitch and we’d show that to them, pick up the trigger words which are important, and start discussions with them.”

Another part of the work done is having the shotstoppers watch games from behind the goal, to see how the more senior keepers deal with situations.

We also get the goalkeepers to come to Molineux for the Under-23s games and sit them behind the goals so they can listen to the keeper and understand how he’s communicating and what he’s doing, because these are the tools that they need going forward,” said Williams.