Since Jeff Shi became owner of Wolves, the mantra has been to develop players for the future.
That’s seen the likes of Diogo Jota, Adama Traore and Pedro Neto become genuine stars of the Premier League. The idea is to breed them young and then develop them quickly.
Unfortunately for those coming up through the academy, it’s mainly been done through external transfers, players coming in from abroad.
Rarely do we see those who have risen through the ranks at Molineux given a chance to enjoy first-team life. Max Kilman has stepped up admirably this term but Morgan Gibbs-White is someone still struggling to make the grade in the top-flight.
His loan stint at Swansea was cut short with Wolves needing more depth in January but he’s featured as a starter just once in the league since returning.
Gibbs-White has undeniable talent but can’t quite provide enough quality to impress Nuno enough to trust him regularly. Worryingly for the 21-year-old, there’s another player in the academy in his position making waves.
That happens to be Owen Hesketh, a young attacking midfielder scoring on a regular basis for the U23s.
The 18-year-old is capable of playing on both flanks, but also as a number 10 or central midfielder. His versatility is eye-catching, but so is his ability to find the back of the net.
In his last four games, Hesketh has beaten the goalkeeper on three occasions.
— Wolves Academy (@WolvesAcademy) January 31, 2021
It’s a run of form that’s seen him earn rave reviews, particularly from U23 boss James Collins. He said earlier this week: “Owen is a real plus to have in the group and have in the team, because he keeps the game ticking with the way he passes the ball, he’s always the one wanting the ball from a teammate.”
Collins continued: “Owen has come in and scores every week, it seems.”
Remarkably, this is the youngster’s first season in U23 football. He has stepped up to the plate and has now become one of their most important players at academy level.
If it wasn’t for a loan spell to Meritan Shabani, however, he may not have got his chance. Football is often about circumstance and if Gibbs-White finds himself on the sidelines again or out on loan, Hesketh will be waiting in the wings ready for his chance.
Judging by his counterpart’s form, he could even be given a go this season. After all, the Old Gold have little to play for between now and the end of the campaign. It would be risk-free to unleash him.