Sheffield Wednesday: Owls boss set to give youth a chance

Will De Havilland
Will De Havilland
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With Sheffield Wednesday lying comfortably in mid-table, there is a strong possibility head coach Stuart Gray will blood some youngsters before the end of the season.

The Owls boss has always been a fan of promoting young players into the first-team environment.

After temporary spells away from Hillsborough, Liam Palmer and Caolan Lavery returned more confident individuals and are prime examples of stars who have forced themselves into Gray’s long-term plans.

For Gray, nothing beats a home-grown talent coming through the ranks and commanding a regular starting spot in the senior set-up.

As well as Palmer and Lavery, Gray further underlined his willingness to give youth a chance in the Owls’ final home match of last season when he handed teenage winger Jack Stobbs his pro debut as a second-half substitute against Bolton.

Several members of Wednesday’s current development squad have sampled training with Gray’s senior side, including Stobbs, William De Havilland and Franck Betra. Injuries have hampered Stobbs and Betra’s progress this term but centre-back De Havilland, snapped up last August following a stint at Millwall, was an unused sub only a fortnight ago in the Owls’ 3-0 defeat away to play-off hopefuls Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Gray said: “If they (youngsters) are good enough, they will get their opportunity. The more players we can produce, the better it is going to be and let’s hope that’s going to happen in the future.”

What Gray wants to avoid doing is throwing a youngster in too early and risk potentially harming their development.

“It’s getting that right game for them and deciding how many minutes to give them,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is knock a player’s confidence.”

It promises to be a tricky balancing act for Gray over the final month of the campaign. While he is keen to bring through the next generation, the Owls chief is demanding his players finish the campaign with a flourish.

The chances are that Gray may resist the temptation to field some of his young guns over the Easter programme but Wednesdayites should get a glimpse of the future before May 2.