Like many clubs, Wolves have produced many players from the academy that sound promising and are talked up by staff and fans, only for them to fall short and never make an impact.
Whilst we have definitely had our fair share of young players coming through that do succeed in terms of either making big profit (Lescott, Keane) or a fair number of first team appearances (Naylor, Murray, Hennessey), there are always the ones that got away. Similarly, there are signings that seem like a great idea and have flourished at other clubs but they couldn’t cut it at Molineux. Where are they now?
Take a look at some current league players that started off in our youth system. Scott Malone, recipient of Wolves’ Academy Player of the Season Award in 2009, never made it into the first team here at Wolves despite early promise. It is not that he was a bad player, simply that he never got the chance and now he has gone on to play at Championship level for Millwall (ending up runners up for their Player of the Season award) and has since joined Cardiff this January.
It was remarkably widely reported that Borussia Dortmund were after him (although I’m not sure if this is a load of Klopp).
Another player without a league appearance is Elliott Bennett, who left us in 2009 for Brighton where he succeeded in getting into League One’s Team of the Year in 2011, before signing for Norwich City and playing in the Premier League over 50 times. We were also previously linked with re-signing him on loan.
Anthony Forde is a young player who probably wasn’t up to the standard and didn’t fit the attributes required to play as a wide player at Wolves but he has flourished over at Walsall. Scoring one of two goals against Preston to set them up for a Wembley trip in the JPT Final. He, unlike Bennett and Malone, played a fair few games for Wolves, making his Premier League debut against Chelsea of all teams.
Leon Clarke is a man who has had two bites of the Molineux apple. In his first spell, he endured a difficult relationship with the fans before being sold by Mick McCarthy.
Going on with a journeyman’s career at many different clubs before a good spell of goal-scoring form at Coventry, partnering former Wolves target Callum Wilson, saw him return to Wolves last season.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out again as his style of play offered little for Jackett’s tactics and he is now, as we all know, out on loan to relegation candidates Wigan. At least he has hit 100 league games and so he can join the Former Players Association (perhaps I’m being a bit presumptuous!)
There are currently a number of players that, looking at them now, should have made an impact at Wolves. George Friend, one of Middlesbrough’s best players in recent seasons, was a deadline day transfer in 2008 but only managed seven league appearances before making a Championship career at Doncaster and Middlesbrough. He has recently been linked with the Baggies and Crystal Palace, showing that a Premier League move awaits George.
Another signing on that day in 2008 was Jason Shackell, former Norwich City captain who only managed twelve appearances for Wolves before being loaned back to Norwich and sold on to Barnsley. He has gone on to captain Barnsley, Derby and currently Premier League Burnley – it seems he joined Wolves at a bad time!
His Burnley teammate, in a team littered with ex-Wolves players, is a player that has gone from strength to strength – Sam Vokes. A promising young striker when we signed him in the Championship winning season, he didn’t really get a good go or didn’t really excel when he did get a chance, however his 2013/14 season with Burnley saw him exceed 20 goals and look very threatening.
Christophe Berra played a large number of games for us, predominantly in the Premier League, where he was probably our most played centre back across the three seasons. However, he stands out at Ipswich for his goal-scoring threat from set pieces and got their Supporters’ Player of the Season Award last year.
The final player to mention is a graduate of Southampton’s successful youth system, Andrew Surman. Playing well over a hundred games for the Saints, Wolves signed the player to bolster their Premier League ranks.
However, his chances were limited and he has since gone on to play in the Premier League with Norwich before joining current side Bournemouth in their current successful regime.
Many of these mentioned signings didn’t get their chance due to us having a successful season: it seems like when we are doing well, there is less chance for new players to integrate effectively.
Being relegated to League One allowed players such as Jack Price, Lee Evans and Danny Batth to assert their selves into the first team picture where perhaps if we were still in the Premier League we would have seen Danny sold off.
Not every player is lucky enough to be a natural Wolf!
(Image via expressandstar.com)