Wolves have launched a series of projects in China with the ultimate aim to produce a Chinese footballer for the Premier League.
Academy manager Scott Sellars is currently in China to help launch a series of projects looking to introduce the game at grassroots level.
Wolves are looking to expand their brand globally, but particularly in China, where the club’s owners Fosun International are based, ahead of their appearance in the Premier League Asia Trophy in the country next month.
The club’s Under-18s are also in China to play in a tournament, while the Under-23s recently won the plate competition at the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens, in the club’s first appearance in the competition.
“Our Chinese owner Fosun International wants to give something back to Chinese football. Helping young Chinese players develop is a big goal,” said Sellars, whose academy has recruited four players of Chinese origin in the last 12 months.
One of them, ‘Dongda’ He Zhenyu, an 18-year-old forward, signed as a scholar last year and became the first Chinese footballer to play in gold and black.
Last month, Dongda played for China’s Under-18s in the 2019 Panda Cup international youth tournament. Playing at home for the first time since his family moved to England in 2012, Dongda missed an open goal and was criticised by some Chinese fans.
But Sellars backed him to put the setback behind him. “If you want to be a professional player, things can’t be perfect all the time,” said the coach. “You will make mistakes and miss chances. The key is how to react to it. Dongda has the confidence to get back. He has potential to be a good player.”
Sellars added: “Our job is to help (the four Chinese players) as much as we can. The dream is to get them into Premier League and develop football in China.”
Wolves have also signed a co-operation agreement with China’s Ministry of Education last Wednesday, which will see up to five elite UEFA coaches working in Chinese campuses in 2019.
“We want to help China improve coaching in schools, and hopefully that can have a positive effect on the players in China,” said Sellars.
The 53-year-old believes it’s the ideal time for Wolves to send their academy teams to China, not only to help promote awareness of the club, but also to provide new and exciting experiences for the players.
“With the profile of the club growing, it’s an ideal way to further showcase our name and the ownership see Asia as a really important place to go,” he said.
“It’s great exposure for the boys because we’re always looking to give them new experiences. It’s all about competition; we send all of our age groups to lots of different tournaments and we want them to experience different styles of football, different game situations and different experiences and cultures – for example our Under-18s are in China.
“I just think these are the sort of things you have to do to develop more well rounded players and more well rounded people.
“We see travelling abroad as really important and if you’re with the players for 24 hours a day, you get to know them better.
“In terms of the football, they will encounter different situations – games where they’re drawing and need to win, games where they might be a man down.
“You don’t learn from having conversations with the coaches, learning comes from experiences.”