SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Owls starlets can’t beat a bit of Bully

Dinnington v Owls.....In charge of the Owls youngsters at Dinnington Lee Bullen
Dinnington v Owls.....In charge of the Owls youngsters at Dinnington Lee Bullen
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Former Owls goalkeeper David Lucas has joined Birmingham City. The 34-year-old becomes the Blues’ third-choice shot-stopper behind Jack Butland and Irishman Colin Doyle.

Barking out instructions and offering constructive criticism to budding young footballers on the training ground and out on the pitch are among the Scot’s duties.

Bullen, who captained Sheffield Wednesday to their 2005 League One play-off final victory over Hartlepool United, is enjoying his new job at Hillsborough as youth coach.

The 41-year-old is overseeing the Owls new development squad. He took charge of his first match since his appointment earlier in the summer on Tuesday against Dinnington Town, giving run-outs to 10 young trialists. Wednesday strolled to a 4-1 victory and are expected to make decisions on the trialists’ futures shortly.

Bullen says the development squad is likely to consist of juniors, youngsters between the age of 18 and 21 and two or three players on the periphery of the first team.

“Things are going great,” he said. “The lads are giving me everything. They are great to work with and there is a very positive feel about the football club at the moment.”

Bullen, who spent five years at Wednesday between 2004 and 2008, will work closely with academy manager Sean McAuley as the club look to nurture and bring through the next generation.

He said: “The youth system is the lifeblood of any football club.

“You know what fans want to see? They either want to see a superstar signing or they want to see a young lad who has come up through the system do well.

“It is our job in the academy to help them progress into the first team.”

Richard Wood, Mark Beevers and Tommy Spurr all came through the ranks when Bullen represented Wednesday. In recent years, Liam Palmer and Richard O’Donnell have also made the step up. Goalkeeper O’Donnell joined Chesterfield on a one-year deal in May, having been released by Wednesday following their promotion to the Championship.

“O’Donnell’s education at Wednesday allowed him to move on and progress his career at a different club,” insisted Bullen. “If they don’t make it with us, we want the boys to have a career in football elsewhere and not be left by the wayside.”

Bullen left Falkirk, where he was assistant manager, last October. He said he learned a lot from his adventure north of the border.

He said: “It was a massive learning curve for me. Our budget was cut by up to 70 per cent in the time I was there and that is a massive thing for any football club.

“It meant we had to go with a squad of 17 players and 11 of them were under 18-years-olds.

“It was basically like working with a development squad when I was up there so I learned a lot from that experience.”

Bullen thinks a handful of the Owls kids could be ready for first-team squad in “six to eight months”.

“It is all about creating pathways for progression,” said the ex-defender. “It is up to the boys how far they go but it is my job to help them progress and give them the opportunity.”