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Wolves comment: Youth is the Molineux agenda

Sport | Published:

You can come up with statistics to prove anything. As Homer Simpson would say, 40 per cent of people know that.

But Tuesday evening's Championship fixtures threw up a fascinating figure from a Wolves perspective, writes Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers.

Taking the 10 outfield players that finished the matches, the average age of 21 of the 22 Championship teams that played that night fell between 24.7 years old and 28.2.

Wolves' average age? 21.7.

As any good mathematician will tell you, that's fully three years below the next youngest outfield team, Fulham.

The film Pulp Fiction is older than that Wolves team.

The average was lowered by the introduction of teenagers Connor Hunte (19) and Bright Enobakhare (18) from the bench, and the fact Wolves' oldest outfield player that evening, Kevin McDonald (27) had been substituted at half time.

But it was still a very young starting line up, 23.1 for the outfield players and 23.6 when old stager Carl Ikeme, at the retirement age of 29, is factored in.

These statistics aren't pointed out to disparage Wolves in the slightest. For a start, they won the game. And comparing ages of teams across the division, there is no direct correlation between age and league position.

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Incidentally, QPR finished their game with the oldest team, with an average age of 28.2 (helped by the oldest player on show in the division that night, Clint Hill at 37), just ahead of Rotherham (28), Brighton) 28) and Burnley (27.7).

Interestingly Wolves of the 17 players to feature who were aged 20 or younger, Wolves fielded almost a quarter (four in Dominic Iorfa, Kortney Hause, Hunte and Enobakhare).

They also, unsurprisingly, had the youngest back four of any Championship side, with an average age of 22.25.

The next lowest was Middlesbrough on 23.75, thanks to their teenager Gael Fry, with QPR the oldest on 30.5 and Blues, who visit Molineux on Sunday, marginally behind on 30.

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Kenny Jackett, in acting out the remit he signed up to when joining Wolves, has shown tremendous faith in youth during his near-three-year tenure.

How invigorating it is to see a back five of Ikeme, Iorfa, Batth, Hause/Ebanks-Landell and Doherty, all of whom have come through the academy or under-21 setups.

The dream for any football fan is to see a team of homegrown players being a success. It's the 'success' part where Wolves have come unstuck this season, but the hope is that these players will be wiser for the experience and, complimented by a couple of wiser old heads, they can flourish next year.

For Hunte and perhaps Enobakhare, who admittedly wouldn't have been involved had James Henry, Bjorn Sigurdarson and Adam Le Fondre been available, there may be a window of opportunity for the remainder of the season.

With Wolves likely to have little to play for in terms of league position, now is the perfect opportunity for these players to prove themselves. A 10-game audition, if you will. Not just for that pair, but for Helan, even George Saville, as Jackett begins to plan for 2016/17.

We certainly saw Jordan Graham pass his 10-game audition. Iorfa and Hause did the same last year.

And Matt Doherty has, in two months, given Wolves' recruitment team food for thought, after they tried unsuccessfully to sign an established first-team left back in January.

If said left-back had been Nicolai Boilesen, Ajax captain and Danish international, he wouldn't have come cheap.

But sometimes what you need is right under your nose, and Doherty's form will be an inspiration to others on the fringe of the first team.

It's certainly something Morgan would like to see.

While Morgan was willing to open his chequebook for Joe Mason, and for Boilesen before the move fell through, Wolves' financial situation looks, in the worst case scenario, fairly bleak when considering there'll be no £8m parachute payment next season and surely far fewer season tickets sold.

It may take another Afobe sale to balance the books, as we've seen this season. And wages continue to be a big problem, with Wolves at least in the bottom half of the Championship wage table, perhaps even the bottom third.

The pertinent issue is that while vibrant youth is all well and good, Wolves simply have to learn their lesson from this season that it must be complimented with experience.

They need two or three more Mike Williamsons, at least, but whether Morgan is prepared to stump up the wages for these type of 'been there, done it' players remains to be seen.

Kevin Thewell was spotted at Shrewsbury on Tuesday night, probably watching Coventry's Adam Armstrong, the 19-year-old striker.

That gives you a suggestion of the type of player Wolves will probably be looking at this summer.

The immediate challenge for the current crop, like Hunte, like Saville, like Hause, like Hause, is to prove they can perform consistently at this level.

But the challenge for the club is to ensure these young players are backed up by seasoned performers.

Until that average age creeps back up, it's hard to see promotion being a possibility.

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