Bruno Lage is hands-on and intense, but he relies heavily on his backroom staff to bring it all together.
Sat out on the training pitch at Wolves’ pre-season camp in Spain, we had an exclusive interview with Alex Silva and Carlos Cachada to give an insight into their roles and preparing the players during pre-season.
The first thing to note – ignore their official titles. Every member of the backroom staff is treated as an assistant and their roles are much more complex.
Cachada is officially titled as a fitness coach, but actually has a tactical focus on the defenders. He prepares meetings and organises them under the guidance of Lage.
Silva is officially assistant head coach and his role does involve a lot of planning and preparation for training sessions. However, it also includes a focus on individual development and establishing a link with the sports science department.
The pair, alongside their backroom staff colleagues, have a lot to consider and contend with – particularly as they get the players ready for another gruelling Premier League season.
Based near Benidorm and battling temperatures in the mid 30s celsius – which may soon be rising too – the squad is being put through two sessions a day.
Wolves may have an abundance of foreign players who are used to hotter temperatures, but the staff have to consider how those more used to colder climates may find it difficult.
“We have players from different countries and some that struggle more than others,” Silva said.
“For example, Portuguese players are more used to this environment. The English players, or Leander (Dendoncker) from Belgium, struggle a lot.
“We try to focus on the individuals and support them in their needs. Every player after a training session loses a certain quantity of water, so it’s important to create a balance for what they need.
“The nutritionists, the physios and everyone focuses on the players individually to give them what they need. We choose the training hours where we can get more from the weather. We try to create conditions to get more from the training sessions.”
The work last week, since Wolves arrived in Spain on Tuesday, has been leading up to the friendlies this week.
They begin on Wednesday and the team face four games in five days – before their final two friendlies in Portugal the week before the new season starts. For the staff, it is all about building the players up incrementally to get them in the best possible condition for August 6 away at Leeds.
“We must prepare them progressively for these kind of matches,” Silva added.
“They won’t start to play 90 minutes, it’s a progression until they are ready.
“We started on June 27 with one group, and lots of kids, and the second group came with players who had international duty. This is now the third week where we had more training sessions, double sessions, and we increased the load.
“This week we have the games to give game time to everybody and increase the minutes. We also need to create offensive and defensive organisation, transitions and increase the physicality to support the way we play.
“What we are doing is not just to prepare for the first game but to create a way we want to play, press, recover and finish the final 10 minutes of the game. “It’s important to progress to avoid injuries.
“We try to achieve a good level, assuming some risks because we always do at this kind of level. It’s about balance.
“In pre-season it’s easier to do that because we have more time to do it. In the competitive window the time to train is less.
“We have time to develop how we want to play and we use lots of specific drills.
“In pre-season we have time to develop different drills where we can progress safely.
“Also to create the right mindset, because it’s hard to create the mindset to go to every game and fight for three points, from the first minute to the last minute.”
A pre-season camp is also a great way to build camaraderie among the group. Between sessions they are enjoying the pool at their hotel, or going out on days off for boat trips or go-karting.
In training, it can quickly get repetitive for players and their interest can begin to fade.
So how do they keep the players engaged?
“They are engaged by the process and the identity the coach wants to build for the team,” Cachada said.
“We bring them different things and a pathway for them to follow. That engages the players.
“We try to make the training sessions with context and knowledge, to make them part of the process.
“When you make them part of the process and the experienced players contribute their opinion, the manager likes that, and it makes the players more engaged.”
Working with the defenders, Cachada has a better insight than most into what new signing Nathan Collins can bring to Wolves.
The centre-back only signed seven days ago but shows promise. One of the first things technical director Scott Sellars said publicly about Collins is that his attitude is spot on – and without being prompted, Cachada made the same assessment.
“First of all, he’s a humble kid,” he added. “It’s not difficult for him to settle in this group because it’s amazing, a top group. For him to settle here is not a surprise and he’s settled quite well.
“He’s got to know each player and tried to fit in. With time he will fit well. Lets progress and build a unit. From there we’ll find his role and his voice. It’s a good thing.
“He’s shy outside of the pitch. When the ball starts rolling he becomes his character and finds his voice.
“Step by step he’ll talk a bit more and he’ll be fine.
“He has that (leadership qualities). He’s started slowly because he wants to know his team-mates, but with time he will become more open and his character will come through.”
Alongside Collins, Wolves have also welcomed in several young players for the pre-season camp. “For the young players I think it’s the best thing,” Cachada said.
“Come here, show themselves to the manager and they can be a surprise. The manager can think of them in the future or in the short-term.
“They just need to take the opportunity and wait for their chance to show the manager they are available to play for the first team.”
Among them is Dexter Lembikisa who has shone for the under-23s.
The right-wing-back is quick, has an excellent touch and delivers a superb cross – and he showed all these attributes when we were invited to watch training.
The 18-year-old was an unused substitute in the FA Cup win over Sheffield United last season and has made an impression on the coaching staff.
“He’s a really good player,” Cachada said.
“He needs to improve his knowledge and physicality of course, to get used to this kind of environment, but for the future I think he’s a player that the club needs to protect and build up to play for the first team.
“The opportunity comes when you don’t expect it and you have to be ready for it.
“Sometimes that’s the luck, just pick the right time and opportunity and be ready for it.
“Dexter was on the bench, imagine if someone gets injured, if he has a good game he starts to impress and then more chances come.”
Leading this team, of course, is Lage. He fronts them up, speaks to the media every week and has to deal with the pressure of being head coach.
However, the work of his coaching staff is integral to his success.
Cachada said: “He’s a top manager. It’s not because I work with him, I’ve said that before.
“He works with us and gives us freedom to give our own opinion.
“He makes us feel part of the process and it’s the best thing you can have when you work with someone.
“To see his knowledge every day is one of the best things for us, as assistants, and also for the players.
“The players have their opinions and he likes to listen. He likes them to be part of the process.”
Finishing this long interview, talk turned to overcoming the disappointing end to last season as they prepare for the new campaign.
Silva, however, had a different and more optimistic view of 2021/22, while insisting the team are dedicated to improving on last term.
“I don’t think it was a disappointing (end to the season),” Silva said.
“We had several issues and we struggled, but fought. We had struggles that didn’t allow us to achieve what we wanted.
“But of course there’s always space to grow and with the squad we already know the players that can come and give us something more.
“We always expect, with our work, to achieve better things and we’re going to fight for it.”