Arguably one of the hottest prospects within the Reds’ academy, supporters are still waiting for a glimpse of Matty Wolfe in first team action since he was named amongst the substitutes at Aston Villa in January 2018.
For anyone who has seen him play at youth level, his burgeoning talent is undeniable as he seemingly glides past opposition players with consummate ease, while showing composure and maturity in possession to link seamlessly with his teammates.
Injury setbacks have hindered the young midfielder’s development over the past couple of years, but he is confident that the worst is behind him as he continues his rehabilitation.
“I’ve had a stress fracture in my back, just from growing, really,” began Wolfe. “For about two years it never went and it was so painful that I just couldn’t play on with it. Then, in training, I got tackled quite badly and injured three ligaments and tore my calf, so it’s been a challenging year. That kept me out for about a month.
“But I feel really good; I’m back training and my confidence is starting to come out now. The lads have been helpful and given me positive feedback so it’s all looking good.”
It requires a certain mental strength to continuously overcome these obstacles – especially at such young age, when all you want to do is play the sport you love.
The support of those around him – particularly at the club – has proved to be a massive help and his inclusion in the senior squad training sessions upon his return shows how highly he is regarded by the coaching staff at Oakwell.
“Being in the first team set-up still gives me confidence because – I’ve been injured for that long – it shows that they’ve not given up on me and they still believe in me,” continued the 19-year-old.
“If they’d thrown me down, I’d have thought they might have given up on me and it would have got me down, and it’d be me, myself and I, so it feels good that I’m with them every day because it helps me a lot.”
When U23s team news is announced an hour before our Professional Development League fixtures kick-off, we occasionally get comments asking where Matty Wolfe is.
Supporters are desperate to see our midfield gem fulfil his potential and he appreciates the well wishes he has received while on the sidelines.
“It feels good when you see people asking about you and how you are because it shows that they want to see you out there and doing well,” said Wolfe. “So hopefully, when I’m back I can show people that I’m still here and not gone under the radar completely.”
For regular attendees to our U23s games, you will often see the youngster sat in the stand at our Academy Showcase Pitch, smiling as he watches his teammates and peers make a name for themselves in the game.
While he enjoys watching, he admits there is a sense of frustration at not being on the pitch himself – wanting nothing more than to just pull the red kit on and showcase his abilities.
Wolfe reserves special praise for the medical team at Oakwell, giving testimony for all the hard work they have put in with him both on the training ground and during gruelling gym sessions.
“They deserve so much credit; they’ve stuck with me all the way,” he asserted. “Gav [Walker], Vikki [Stevens] and Sedge [Craig Sedgwick] – everyone, really – they’ve been there every day and doing all they can to help get me back as soon as possible. I can’t thank them enough.
“It’s not just the uppers and legs; it’s the ankle programmes and back programmes, but it is what it is. Before you go out running, I’ll go in the gym an hour before to do my core and ankle activation and, after, maybe legs and uppers and the foam rolling. The players spend a lot of time in there, not just on the field.”