Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Owls are giving young players a reason to stay put

It takes time, patience and resources to build solid foundations for future success.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 3:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 3:42 pm
Owls defender Ash Baker

It is not something which happens immediately.

But what we have seen at Hillsborough this calendar year is a change in approach.

No longer are the Owls shelling out big transfer fees and salaries on players. No longer are the Owls relying solely on experienced professionals to lead a promotion challenge.

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Instead, Wednesday have turned to youth.

Boss Jos Luhukay has been keen to promote the kids throughout his tenure and a raft of academy players have broken into the first-team set-up, including Jordan Thorniley, Connor Kirby, Ash Baker and Frederik Nielsen.

There is a clear pathway there for the next generation now.

"It's a great time to be a young player at the club," Cameron Dawson told me.

"There has been a lot of negative press in the past about this club not bringing through enough youngsters.

"But it looks a really good time for the academy and really positive time for the club. Hopefully some more youngsters will get the chance and really take that chance and do well for this football club."

It is a shame things did not work out with Sean Clare and George Hirst. They were two of the most talented young players to emerge from the club’s youth set-up in years but the pair decided to run down their contracts and go elsewhere. Wednesday tried to retain their services to no avail.

However, the signs are the Owls are keen to avoid a repeat of the Clare and Hirst scenario.

Chief executive Katrien Meire has been busy over the last seven months, helping tie down 12 of Wednesday's youngsters to new contracts. It is understood Meire dealt with a number of the players agents and brokered some, not all, of the deals.

Overseeing the day-to-day running of the academy is part of Meire's job. Youth development is a key area which she possesses plenty of experience and contacts in from her time at Charlton Athletic. It was the Addicks who helped nurture the talents of Nick Pope, Ademola Lookman and Joe Gomez.

What Wednesday's hierarchy seemingly want to try and create is a healthy production line. For the academy to be the first port of call when the manager needs to strengthen the first-team squad. It is a philosophy Luhukay appears to be right behind.

And it is hugely encouraging for the future of the club how many youngsters see their long-term future at Wednesday. Clearly the young guns recognise Luhukay is a manager who will give them a chance if they prove to him they are ready to make the step up.

Of course, not all of them will make the grade. Some will fall by the wayside.

But at least the Owls are giving their academy players plenty of reasons to stay where they are.