Nuno Espirito Santo believes youngsters such as in-demand Owen Otasowie set the standard for Wolves recruits with their versatility.
The 18-year-old defender or midfielder is said to be attracting a host of clubs eager to make a move with his contract up at the end of the season, including Paris Saint Germain, Liverpool, Arsenal and Schalke.
PSG were impressed when the towering American played against them at centre back at Molineux recently in the Premier League International Cup.
Boss Nuno has since put Otasowie on the bench for last Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Sheffield United, with Ryan Bennett out injured.
“If we have absences in specific positions, we try to fill them with the players from the Under-23s,” said head coach Nuno.
“That’s the case of Owen. He can play centre half and midfield. We’re trying to improve him and make him a valuable option for us.
“The back-up of the Under-23s is always very important for us. The chances for the boys come when something happens to the first-team squad.”
Schalke, managed by former Huddersfield boss David Wagner, will look to use their reputation for bringing through youngsters to try to entice Otasowie in the summer.
Unless Wolves persuade the 6ft 3ins youngster to sign a new deal, they would only be entitled to compensation for him if he left in the summer, because of his age.
So far this season the 18-year-old has found his game time limited, having made 86 minutes across four games in the Premier League 2.
Nuno insists on working with a small squad which is why having versatile players is so important.
Wing backs Matt Doherty and Jonny Castro Otto can play on either flank – Doherty has also played as a right-sided centre back – Adama Traore can operate at wing back, winger or striker, and centre backs Leander Dendoncker, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss have played much of their careers as midfielders.
“That’s the philosophy – you have to create versatile players,” said Nuno. “The game is so dynamic, if you only stick to one position, you will struggle.
“If you find yourself in different positions, different situations, trying to find new solutions, your game will improve.
“If you have the capacity to play in different positions, it’s good for the players and good for us.”
Nuno has regularly handed Under-23s players chances to play in the first team.
Harry Burgoyne, Oskar Buur, Connor Ronan, Niall Ennis, Ryan Giles, Pedro Goncalves, Elliot Watt, Dion Sanderson, Chem Campbell, Taylor Perry, Terry Taylor, Luke Cundle, Bruno Jordao, Flavio Cristovao, Benny Ashley-Seal and Meritan Shabani have all had fleeting tastes of first-team football under the Portuguese.
By training and playing with the senior players, the Wolves boss wants youngsters to see a pathway to the senior squad, and he has guaranteed those who impress will get a chance.
“Of course, having this ambition in the young players is what can make us strong in the future,” he said.
“They want to be inside the first-team group, so they have to compete well in the Under-23s – not only in games but every moment of every training session.
“Having this ambition, I think all of them have it because we trust them.
“We are trying to build players and make them grow. Having a small squad, they will be involved.
“We count on them, knowing it will be step by step. We cannot expect it immediately from them. It takes time and patience, but we believe in them.”
All of Wolves’ age group teams play the same 3-4-3 formation, so players are able to slot into the same roles, even if the personnel might differ.
“This is the philosophy. We are trying to build and create an identity,” he added.
“I think all of the academy are doing a fantastic job – the young boys are playing in the same shape we do, trying to find the same lines, the same approach.”