As Pedro Goncalves gears up for a potential £50m move to one of Europe’s top clubs, Wolves will be living with regret at what could have been.
The Portuguese ace was key man the year Wolves’ U23 side won Premier League 2 but since then, not a huge number of their academy players have been granted regular first-team opportunities. Goncalves only played once, for instance.
One of the fortunate young players to be given their chance is Max Kilman. The former Futsal player has become a valuable option both at left-back and in the centre of defence for Nuno Espirito Santo, but with defensive problems rife this season, he could be searching for new players in the summer.
Though, if Nuno and Jeff Shi do look for other options in the summer, they could do worse than look at their academy; namely Lewis Richards.
The 19-year-old has featured among the substitutes in five Premier League matches without ever earning his senior debut. Yet, that should change in the not too distant future.
Richards earned a new contract with the club last year and has since made promising strides in the U23s, playing nine times in Premier League 2.
He saved what was arguably his best performance of the campaign for a win over Crystal Palace last weekend. A centre-half by trade, he plays very similarly to club captain Conor Coady, and he demonstrated that in the victory against Palace.
Richards claimed an assist for Theo Corbeanu’s goal, a moment the Wolves’ website described as follows: “Lewis Richards channelled his inner Conor Coady with a 40-yard raking ball out of defence and straight to the boot of Corbeanu.” What followed was the winger firing a deflected shot into the back of the net.
Richards is clearly conformable on the ball, and like Coady, he is a technical defender.
After winning the club’s Academy Player of the Year in 2018/19, Kevin Thelwell said: “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.”
Further praise was heaped on Richards after he signed his new contract back in August. Scott Sellars spoke highly of the teenager, commenting: “We try to reward success and he certainly comes under that bracket and deserves it. He’s always had potential. We saw it as a 15-year-old when we took him from Brentford. Now he’s obviously growing up.”
Richards has long been tipped for a bright future and now it’s up to Nuno to extract his immense promise. He likes his defenders to be able to play out from the back so he certainly suits the club’s way of playing.
It surely won’t be too long before we see him earn first-team minutes.