Sheffield Wednesday: Young guns must be ready to fire

Matt Young are two young players in particular Stuart Gray will be relying upon to provide back up this season.
Matt Young are two young players in particular Stuart Gray will be relying upon to provide back up this season.
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Injuries to senior players forced Stuart Gray to rely heavily on youth throughout their pre-season fixtures.

As the Owls boss readily admits, he has not got one of the biggest squads in the division so the last thing he needs is for experienced campaigners in Lewis Buxton and Jose Semedo to be in the treatment room.

Buxton is likely to miss the Championship curtain-raiser at Brighton and Hove Albion this weekend because of a knee problem, opening the door for Matt Young.

Signed on a one-year deal from Southampton over the summer, the 20-year-old shone in the right-back berth in Sheffield Wednesday’s draw at Barnsley in their final friendly last weekend.

Liam Palmer, the club’s reigning player of the year, will probably get the nod on Saturday but Young, who started his career at Tottenham’s academy before moving to Southampton at the age of 16, may be included in the match-day squad, having impressed Wednesday’s management team.

“Matt has got ability and I thought he did well against Barnsley,” Gray told The Star. “It does help when you are a young boy if you have someone around you who is a good organiser and Tom [Lees] is a great talker.

“I knew about Matt through my contacts at Southampton. He will get better playing alongside Glenn [Loovens], Tom and Kamil [Zayatte].”

Gray rested Palmer and Joe Mattock at Oakwell, handing opportunities to Young and Rafa Floro in the full-back positions.

Floro is another youngster looking to cement a regular place in Gray’s first-team plans, having flourished since returning from international duty with Portugal U21s, who finished third in the Toulon tournament earlier this summer.

“Rafa is a young boy who came to the country and couldn’t speak a word of English,” admitted Gray. “We got him English lessons and he has improved.

“It doesn’t matter if someone comes on a free transfer or you’ve paid big money for a player. Lads don’t always settle in as quickly as you want them to do.

“Rafa’s got a bright future. He gives us that energy down that left hand side but he’s got to realise he is a defender first and foremost.”

The Owls’ U21 side trimphed 2-1 against their Hull City counterparts at Middlewood Road yesterday with both goals coming courtesy of Franck Betra.

Neither Floro nor Young were involved in the match, suggesting they could be involved in the trip to Brighton this weekend.