When it comes to Wolves’ academy it’s a particularly tough gig to make the jump to senior level.
Their small squad means that a number of younger players do end up training with the first-team squad but it feels rare they actually get minutes on the field of play.
So far this term, players under the age of 19 have achieved just five starts. That’s hardly a fair reflection either when you consider the two players in question here are summer signings Fabio Silva and Rayan Ait-Nouri.
Owen Otasowie, Oskar Buur and Ki-Jana Hoever have all made appearances from the bench but that says a lot that there isn’t exactly a clear path to the senior squad.
Nuno Santo very rarely tinkers with his starting XI and few can blame him. Wolves are doing just fine as they are.
However, there will come a time where the players themselves have to start making the jump themselves. One player who has been seeking more regular senior action in the last few years is Dion Sanderson.
The defender has only ever played for Wolves on one occasion and spent last term with Cardiff. He’s now with Sunderland and hasn’t exactly had much action, playing just five times in League One while on loan.
Yet, there are supreme qualities within Sanderson that lead us to believe that he could make the grade at Wolves. If he does indeed do that, he could be Wolves’ natural successor to Conor Coady.
Of course, that’s a stretch at the moment but he has plenty of abilities that match Coady’s. He is versatile – possessing the ability to play as a centre-half and as a full-back but it’s his ball-playing skills that bear the greatest similarities.
In 2020/21, he has completed over 88% of his passes and saved his most impressive performance for a 1-1 draw with Wimbledon this week.
The 21-year-old completed 93% of his passes and won a combined six ground and aerial duels. He was absolutely tremendous at carrying the ball out from the back and found himself in the right place at the right time on a regular basis.
He does possess an element that Coady doesn’t, though. It’s a stand-out quality too.
Speaking about Sanderson in October, Birmingham Live’s Alex Dicken said: “He has lots of pace which enables him to get up and down the flank, while he’s also good in the air and strong in the tackle.”
Having such speed is supremely useful for a defender. It allows them to get out of sticky situations and if he can keep improving other areas of his game while employing that pace, he’ll be very well set.
Nuno has let Sanderson train with the first-team regularly but his contract expires in 2022. He’ll need to make a better impression on the manager soon.