Alan Biggs: Sheffield Wednesday's fresh batch of young talent have the perfect role models
Let’s be honest, when kids swarm into the senior squad at a traditional big club it’s as much because of economic factors as anything else.
As one of the many getting his chance at Sheffield Wednesday pointed out the other day, there’s more hope of progression through the ranks at Hillsborough than most anywhere else of similar stature these days.
But that’s not to knock; all the more reason to welcome and hope it works. Because, whether by accident or design, Wednesday might just have got ahead of the game for the post-Covid world.
And there’s a symbolic link between the first team dressing room at Hillsborough and the Wednesday academy that promises so much for the future.
In one place you’ll find the Owls’ longest-serving player while, in the academy that nurtured him, you’ll locate the club’s longest-serving employee bar none.
Liam Palmer and Lee Bullen work apart these days but together they represent not only the past and present but the future of the club.
At a time when manager Garry Monk has been feeding more youngsters into the senior squad - as many as six in recent times - Palmer is an inspiration to their hopes.
Now 29, he’s been with Wednesday since the age of seven and, 10 years on from his senior debut, he fully represents some redefined values with great distinction.
Meanwhile, Bullen, relocated back to the academy after a managerial reshuffle, is no less a dyed-in-the-wool Wednesdayite - by the Scot’s sheer length of association.
The promotion-winning former captain has totalled 13 years at the club he joined in 2004, departing briefly to Falkirk as his playing days ended.
Bully not only played in every position for the club but he has also seen the backroom operation at all levels, culminating in three spells as caretaker boss during which his win percentage was a highly respectable 46.7%.
Nobody could be better placed to know what it takes for a youngster to make the grade through the system.
And no-one could offer a better example than Palmer of what to aspire to.
He’s played dependably in every position across the back line, as well as midfield in earlier days. Now a regular Scotland international as well and a credit to his club off the field as well as on.
Palmer knows the special pride of breaking through and is also a superb ambassador for the Owls.
It’s hard to think of a finer role model for the likes of Ciaran Brennan, Conor Grant, Charles Hagen, Alex Hunt, Liam Shaw and Liam Waldock.