On Monday afternoon, Wolves announced the departure of long-term sporting director Kevin Thelwell.

Thelwell decided to leave the role to become New York Red Bulls’ new Head of Sport.

The 46-year-old spent 12 years at Molineux, starting as the academy manager before progressing to sporting director.

Jeff Shi rated him highly and Wolves will be now looking for his replacement.

But how did Thelwell rise from a semi-professional footballer to overseeing Wolves’ recruitment?

Early career and coaching

Thelwell’s passion for football started as a youth player with Crewe Alexandra before switching to Shrewsbury Town.

However, he never made a professional appearance and only made starts for semi-professional teams across Cheshire.

His successful career in football coaching began when he joined the Football Association for Wales in the late 1990’s.

In his first year, Thelwell became one of the youngest to obtain a UEFA Advanced Licence at just 25.

By 2002, he progressed to becoming their Director of Coach Education, working closely with Osian Roberts who was once described as the ‘most influential man in Welsh football‘.

The two were instrumental in organising FA and UEFA courses at Dragon Park, which would be used in the future by former players such as Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira.

Club football and Billy Davies

(Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

For his success in Wales, Thelwell attracted the attention of then Preston manager Billy Davies in 2005.

Shortly thereafter, he then moved to Preston to become their Head of Youth.

 

In his first and only season at Deepdale, their youth side won the Football League Youth Cup.

He then followed Davies to Derby the following year, becoming the youngest Academy Manager in the country at 32.

During his tenure, several academy graduates such as Will Hughes made the step-up to the first-team.

Thelwell also assisted with the first team as a coach, helping the Rams win promotion to the Premier League. Unfortunately, their time in the top-flight was infamously unsuccessful.

Davies left the club in November 2007, ending his two-and-a-half-year relationship with Thelwell, who briefly served as their caretaker manager before leaving at the end of the season.

Moving to Molineux

(Photo by James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images)

Thelwell found his long-term home at Molineux in 2008 as he became the club’s academy manager.

During his time in this position, 24 academy players were offered professional contracts and Wolves’ academy also achieved Category One status.

Wolves dramatically dropped down to League One and Thelwell shifted to the Head of Football Development and Recruitment.

He then oversaw Wolves’ instant promotion back to the Championship.

Fosun took over the club in June 2016 and a few months later, Thelwell was promoted again to sporting director.

Following Walter Zenga’s dismissal, Thelwell’s personal choice for his replacement was Paul Lambert. However, Lambert was sacked under pressure from super agent Jorge Mendes after just six months.

Jeff Shi remained a fan of Thelwell’s work and appointed him to the board of directors in 2019.

However, his 12-year stint at the club came to an end on Monday as he takes a new challenge across the pond in New York.

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