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Wolves under-23s v Liverpool: Friends reunited for boss James Collins

By Rosie Swarbrick | Wolves | Published:

James Collins will go head-to-head with his ex-Crewe team-mate and long-time pal Neil Critchley when his Wolves under-23 side host Liverpool in the Premier League International Cup tomorrow.

Molineux, the home of Wolves (AMA)

Collins left his role as first-team coach at Crewe to link up with former boss and current Wolves U18 manager Steve Davis in the Wolves academy.

The 41-year-old officially took over from Mark Kennedy at the start of the month.

And as he prepares to manage the under-23s at Molineux for the first time, he revealed his debt of gratitude to current Liverpool U-23s boss Critchley as he adapts to life at Compton Park.

Collins said: “I’m close friends with Neil.

“He was at Crewe with me and he has been a big help for me coming into this role.

“He has told me what to expect from U-23 football at a Category One academy.”

The friends coached the youth team at Crewe before Critchley went on to join Liverpool’s academy set-up and Collins followed in Davis’s footsteps to first-team coaching and then Wolves.

And having made the leap back to youth development at Compton Park, Collins revealed the advice Critchley has passed on. He said: “The main thing he said is that you have to get to know the players.

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“It can be difficult if you are not training them every day.

“Some weeks they have a couple of days with the first team, some might be out on loan, some might be with you but not in the team and it can be difficult to keep tabs on them.

“That makes building relationships difficult, which obviously you need to improve.

“The main thing he said was get to know the players and get to know what makes them tick because ultimately that is how you make them better.

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“Here it is different from being at a small club like Crewe where all the players are in one building, one team, where it is easier to get to know them.

“In U23 football part of the battle is spending time with them to get to know them.

“So that was probably the best bit of advice coming through the door that he gave me.”

Critchley will take charge of Liverpool’s first team for their FA Cup replay with Shrewsbury Town next week.

And for Collins this is an exciting test for his U-23 team who could win the group and secure qualification to the next round with a victory.

He said: “They might use it as preparation for the second Shrewsbury game.

“They might rest those players and start a slightly younger group.

“I think what it is is an exciting night for all the players involved.

“To play at Molineux under the lights in a winner-takes-all game is exciting.”

And Collins is hopeful the Wolves fans come in their numbers to ensure this is not the U-23s final European clash of the season.

He said: “It will be a good one for the supporters to come down to and see us pit our wits against one of the world’s best academies and see where we are at.

“I went to the PSG game as a spectator (in November) and I could not believe the response from the Wolverhampton public.

“I expected to turn up and there be a couple of hundred but there was thousands.

“That sort of whetted my appetite because I thought what a job and what a club this is.

“I’m excited to manage at a historic Premier League ground, under the lights.”

Rosie Swarbrick

By Rosie Swarbrick
@rosieswarb

Wolves correspondent for the Express & Star.

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