Premier League - Wolves Academy Manager
The expert in this issue is a ‘backstage crew’. Jonathan Hunter-Barrett is the academy manager at Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club (Wolves) who has more than 15 years of coaching experience. Wolves has produced many star players in the past. Behind the glory, these star players have spent years in training. As the academy manager at Wolves, Jonathan serves the team diligently behind the scenes, including the initial recruitment of players, personal training, the graduation of Wolves Academy. In order to better understand the youth training of the Wolves Academy, we conducted an interview with him.
Q: What are the characteristics of the Wolves Academy?
A: We take our boys away on tour to quite a lot to different countries. We’ve been to China in the past, we’ve been to Dubai, we’ve been across Europe and we take them to tournaments in this country as well. We try and provide them with lots of different life experiences alongside the football, but we do that through the travel.
The purpose is to give the players bespoke opportunities to develop and learn. It puts them under pressure.
Q: What kind of players are considered potential players? What is the deciding factor? Can you share some examples?
A: Personality is the key. In addition to physical fitness and strategies, internal drive and an "always learning mentality" are what we always look for.
Internal drive is critical because it determines whether a person can control his emotions. Focus is also very important. We can guide and nurture them in these aspects, but they must be internally motivated to be trained. At the end of the day, personality determines whether they can go on this career path.
Q: What is the assessment system for players of different age groups? Which age group is their prime time?
A: We set up a positional profile for each player, which will continuously record and follow their development in the academy to evaluate their condition and potential. The academy also has its own courses, and players must follow the course requirements and be assessed on game day.
As they get older, it becomes more and more challenging to stay. Like a pyramid, it gets smaller as you go to the top. Generally speaking, U18 and U21 players are in their prime time, because in terms of age, their physical fitness level is the closest to that of the first team players.
Q: Have you ever thought about being a professional football player yourself?
A: Yes, but at the age of 15, I realised that I was not capable to be a professional football player.
But I love football. My first job in football industry was being a volunteer at Walsall Football Club when I was 10 years old. At that time, I was very happy to be able to work with players and discovered that I was capable and good at helping them, in terms of travel and daily life. Being able to realise my value in the field I am interested in is one of the main motivations that made me choose this career.
Reece Devine at Manchester United F.C., Remeao Hutton at Swindon Town F.C., Chem Campbell in our Wolves first team, etc. are players that I've helped. I feel that my job is valuable as they enter the professional team. Therefore, I am willing to seek self-improvement to be better at my job. For example, while taking practical courses for UEFA B and UEFA A licenses, I also studied for a master's degree in sports management, hoping to do a better job in the constant self-challenge and improvement.