Flip-flops, fines and an Instagram check: inside the Sheffield Wednesday debut of Ciaran Brennan

Head still fizzing, smile wide, 20-year-old Ciaran Brennan sunk into his seat in the Spotland away changing room and punched the in passcode of his phone.
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It was gone 10pm and Brennan, by his own admission, was exhausted. His Sheffield Wednesday debut had come and gone in hugely impressive fashion, breezing confidently through 80 minutes against Rochdale as part of a back three that would go on to secure the club’s third clean sheet in as many competitive matches this season.

You suspect he wasn’t short of phone notifications. But before he could delve too deep into the texts and social media adoration that awaited him, he was back to earth with a bump.

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Music blaring, laughs roaring, there was the small matter of a speech for him and fellow debutant Conor Grant to make first, at the mischievous behest of manager Garry Monk.

After a winning debut Owls youngster Ciaran Brennan faces the Media. Pic Steve Ellis.After a winning debut Owls youngster Ciaran Brennan faces the Media. Pic Steve Ellis.
After a winning debut Owls youngster Ciaran Brennan faces the Media. Pic Steve Ellis.

The players have a rule that flip-flops or sliders must be warn in the changing room and put on the spot, Brennan rose to his feet and spoke in his socks. Following the speeches and with impeccable comic timing, fines master Liam Palmer simply slid the pencil from behind his ear and duly noted the error.

“It’s a good atmosphere in the changing room and you need that," chuckled a relaxed and jovial Monk in the moments after the clash on an Owls tradition that appears to have been born on a whim after Liam Shaw’s debut at QPR in July.

“They just thanked everyone. It’s a bit of a wind-up really and they weren’t wearing any flip flips so they got fined. Not only did they do them with the speech but he got fined as well!

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“They’ve been training with us, they knew what to expect. To make your debut and play like that, it’s great.

“He’s obviously very proud, his family will be proud and it’s great for the club.”

And proud his family will surely be. Brennan joined the club’s under-14s in 2013 and has remained a top prospect ever since. His four-match loan spell at Gainsborough Trinity last season returned a player of the month award and he is proud to have represented the Republic of Ireland, the country of his birth, at both under-18 and under-19 level.

Adept either on the right of defence or more centrally, he comes from a football-obsessed family.

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“I just spoke to my dad on FaceTime,” Brennan said after the game with a grin you’d do well to chisel from his face. “He just said ‘yeah, you did alright!’.

"We’re always talking, we’re always being analytical so I’m sure me, him and my brother will be going through my clips and looking at things we can get better at.

“I’m quite critical of myself and I’ll be watching over my clips and all the bad stuff that I did because that’s how I improve.

“I’m after more appearances. I’m 20 now, so I’m at the stage that I need to be playing first team whether it’s here or on loan somewhere else, so I’m just going to keep trying to push people to play better in my position or push for myself. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

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Monk suggested there would be alterations to his Wednesday side after their energy-sapping Championship win at Cardiff on Saturday and he wasted no time in getting things settled, informing the squad of his plans to make 11 changes the day after.

Meetings have been a regular feature at Middlewood Road in the past few weeks and as players were called in to a selection drawn up at the front of the room, Brennan couldn’t believe his eyes. It’s a challenge, he said, that was helped by the presence of a host of fellow youngsters.

They spent the following two days fine-tuning shape and basic ball work in part to initiate the likes of Brennan into the fold.

“I didn’t even look at the rest of the team,” he said looking back on Sunday. “I was a bit shocked to see my name on the team sheet but I like to think that I’ve taken the chance, so we’ll see in the next round.

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“I knew I had people that Shawy [Liam Shaw] and Hunty [Alex Hunt], Fizz [Fisayo Dele-Bashiru] in the same team and I feel like I would’ve been a bit more nervous if the whole team had been fully senior players, but these are lads I’ve played with for years and years so I feel a bit more comfortable around them.

“We all have our banter in training. A lot of us have been at the club for seven or eight years, some even longer than that. It’s been amazing to look around training and you’re with people like Barry Bannan and all these great players, it’s just a bit crazy to be there sometimes.”

It was the only glimpse of vulnerability from a confident and assured 20-year-old that has wasted no time in elbowing his way into the hustle and bustle of changing room banter.

Asked who his major allies are in the senior changing room, the youngster smiled in broad Yorkshire tones: “Me and Mo [Moses Odubajo] have a lot of banter.

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“I’m a bit of a joker myself, to be honest. I’ve already had the impression from the lads that goes down well with, some it doesn’t go down so well with! I enjoy it and have good banter with all the lads.”

Debut out of the way, he may well have to pack his flip-flops again sometime soon.


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