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Wolves to keep small squad if they qualify for Europa League

Wolves will continue with a small squad if they qualify for the Europa League on Saturday – and look set to play their kids in Europe.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad could face at least six extra matches should Manchester City beat Watford in the FA Cup final this weekend and grant the club European football for the first time in 39 years.

They will start their Europa League campaign on July 25 – just six days after playing in the Premier League Asia Trophy in China.

Wolves used just 19 players this season before the last-minute introduction of youngsters Will Norris and Max Kilman in the final home game against Fulham.

But despite the extra fixture burden European football would bring, chairman Jeff Shi says the ‘small is beautiful’ policy that has worked so well will continue, with the likelihood of Under-23s players playing in the Europa League.

I have talked with Nuno and he thinks the philosophy will be the same. We will still try to keep a small squad,” Shi told Wolves TV.

If we have one more tournament to compete in, we will not do something like have more players, because after the tournament, what do you do with them? So we will not do this.

We will try to keep a small squad, as Nuno wants, but in the meantime, it requires higher quality from our academy players, because sometimes when we need them, they can step up and help the team.

So in my view, if we go into Europe – fingers crossed – it will not be about the first team. We will have to improve our Under-23s team or our Under-18s. Then they will be ready when we need them.”

Shi admits to mixed feelings about qualifying for Europe. On one hand it raises the profile of the club, on the other playing in another competition presents more of a logistical headache.

Wolves would enter the two-legged second qualifying round with ties on July 25 and August 1. If they get through that, there would be ties on the eighth and 15th in the third qualifying round, then, should they win that, play on the 22nd and the 29th in the next. Following that there is six matches to play in the group, before the knockout stage.

We would be happy of course, but it would change the whole process,” added the chairman. “For example, if we go into the Europa League, the games will start very soon. If we don’t qualify, the players will take a rest then go to a training camp and we start again.

If we have more games to play, for example if we get to the group stages, we will have six games to play, and the training method may have to be tweaked. So that’s a challenge to Nuno.

But in the meantime, if we will be in Europe, it will improve the profile of the club and the players, so long term, it’s a good thing for us.

In general, it’s a good thing, but my view, I’m always thinking about what the challenge is and how to tackle it.

The fans will be happy of course, but we have to think carefully about how to do the job.”

Wolves last played in Europe in 1980-81 having qualified as League Cup winners and lost 3-2 on aggregate to PSV Eindhoven, winning 1-0 at Molineux after losing 3-1 away.