Wolves loans manager Seyi Olofinjana believes more of the club’s Under-23 players could be sent out on loan to ‘rip it up’ and accelerate their development.
Under-23s midfielders Pedro Goncalves and Joao Dias have returned to Portugal to join FC Famalicao on a permanent basis for an undisclosed fee. They follow 19-year-old left wing back Ryan Giles, who has signed for League One Shrewsbury Town on a season-long loan.
Chairman Jeff Shi has stated some Under-23s players will be supplementing Nuno Espirito Santo’s first-team squad for the forthcoming Europa League campaign. Wolves Under-23s won Premier League 2 Division 2 last season and will compete in the top tier of Academy football in the coming campaign.
Former Molineux midfielder Olofinjana says there might be some more departures from the top age group in the Academy. But he admits it is a fine balancing act between them staying and playing in Europe for Wolves or getting a similar experience possibly abroad elsewhere.
“Some of the lads who did well last season might be going out on loan because they’re learning within the club, and, to bridge the gap to the first team, they need to go out into a first-team environment and develop and come back,” said the 39-year-old ex-Nigeria international to www.wolvesbite.com
“They need to play more games – not just in our Under-23s, but out on loan and rip it up somewhere, come back, and they will be great.”
Of those who stay to play in the Europa League, Olofinjana, who has been back at Molineux for four years working in the Academy, is keen to see the youngsters embrace the experience. Wolves play the winners of Northern Irish outfit Crusaders and Faroe Islanders B39 Torshavn in the two-legged second qualifying round on July 25 and August 1.
“It’s going to be a wonderful experience. Some of them might be going out (on loan) very quickly and we don’t how far we’re going to go in the Europa League,” added the former Stoke City and Hull City midfielder. “There are six games to get to the group stages and if a lot of them are playing in that, then happy days.
“I’ve got Christian Herc playing in the Czech Republic playing in a Champions League qualifier, and I’ve got Connor Ronan playing in a Europa qualifier, so what you’re getting at Wolves, you’re getting in a loan environment.”
As for who will go out on loan in addition to Giles, Olofinjana said plans would be finalised soon.
“It’s still a bit up in the air at the moment. It’s going to be down to recruitment,” he admitted. “We’re playing in the top league at Under-23s level this season but we don’t want to leave ourselves too short.
“Some might go out on loan but some might stay back to bolster the Under-23s. It’s going to be competitive anyway so it’s going to be as good as playing for someone else’s first team. But in the coming weeks it will become clearer.”
Ultimately Wolves want to develop players for their first team and several Under-23s progressed to make appearances in Nuno’s side last season, including Goncalves, Benny Ashley-Seal, Giles, Elliot Watt, Niall Ennis, Will Norris and Max Kilman.
Olofinjana insists Nuno will promote them if they are good enough, and there will be opportunities because the head coach likes to keep a small squad.
“If an opportunity presents itself and the players are consistent and make that step, then it’s possible,” he said. “They train a lot with the first team with Nuno and last season, some of them played in the cup games, so they’re not far off.”
Regarding the Under-23s now competing in Premier League Division 1, Olofinjana wants them to show what they’re capable of, and relish the challenge of playing at a higher level.
“We’re not there by a fluke – we’ve earned the right to be there – so we’ve just got to show how good a team we can be and go and compete with the best in the country,” he said. “I think it’s just about progression in the way we work. We have good players, we’ll be playing in a better league, so let’s see if we can compete.”
Goncalves spent the previous two seasons at Molineux, having signed from Valencia in 2017, and made 38 Under-23 appearances, scoring nine goals. He also made his senior debut as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup last August.
Dias spent just one season at Wolves, making a solitary Under-23s appearance as a substitute against Sunderland in Premier League 2 Division 2.
Wolves already have a link with Famalicao as Ashley-Seal spent the second half of last season on loan there and netted one goal as they won promotion to the top tier of Portuguese football.