This article is part of Football FanCast’s In The Pipeline series, which takes a look at some of the most promising young talent either linked with clubs or emerging from their academies…
Those coming through the youth ranks at Wolves don’t have a traditional upbringing.
Hosted at various houses in the local area, a regular group of players from catchments outside of Wolverhampton are taken under the wing of loving families in a bid to guide them through the early stages of their career.
Colossal centre-back Dominic Iorfa is one man to gain from such a system, while another defender in the form of Lewis Richards has also benefitted.
One of many to go through this process, he was initially in the youth ranks at Brentford before moving northwards to the Midlands.
His trajectory at Molineux has been quite something. He thrived in the U18s last term, so much so than he earned a place in Rob Edwards’ U23 side, a team that won Premier League 2 Division 2.
The 18-year-old’s superb term was capped off by winning the Academy Player of the Season for 2018/19.
It was no more than he deserved for a stellar campaign where be impressed plenty at the club.
Detailing his characteristics, Edwards said last season: “He’s good in one-v-one situations defensively, comfortable on the ball, he’s got a good range of passing.
“He’s got a good temperament, someone who wants to defend. He’s broken into our team on a couple of occasions now and done well.”
The rave reviews didn’t stop there. Sporting Director Kevin Thelwell once noted: “He’s a very technical player who’s got the ability to pass the ball and start off play and help us to build out from the back, but also then very capable physically.”
A physical player with technique is all you need in a defender and not only does his ability to pass the ball remind you of club captain Conor Coady, but the strength he possesses is comparable to that of Willy Boly.
At the age he’s at, Richards hasn’t yet matured but he could well be one of the defenders to prosper from the aforementioned Boly’s time on the sidelines.
The Frenchman’s ankle fracture was a huge blow to Wolves’ aspirations but there is now a gap in defence open to be swallowed up by one willing taker.
Nuno Santo doesn’t trust Jesus Vallejo, playing him just twice in the Premier League while Romain Saiss and Leander Dendoncker aren’t natural centre-halves.
As far as actual centre-backs go, they are few and far between, something that may be somewhat of an issue given their three at the back formation.
If you consider Richards’ ever-growing attributes, a first-team debut may well linger in the not too distant future.