How Sheffield Wednesday youngster Osaze Urhoghide can look to a teammate to fulfil his early days promise

He came in a whirlwind of a surprise selection, leggy forward runs and viral interviews. And while it appears his first-team involvement at Sheffield Wednesday is on pause for just a moment, Osaze Urhoghide needn’t look far for a source of inspiration.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:00 pm

Such is the interest around the youngster, it’s hard to believe he’s played only 268 minutes for the Owls’ first string. Released from AFC Wimbledon in the summer, the charismatic defender has already had his taste of the highs and lows of what it is to be a professional footballer.

Star turns in against-odds wins at Brighton and Leeds put him on the crest of a wave that fell in the form of a half-time hooking in the 5-0 defeat against Blackburn and a 49th-minute red card in defeat to Reading.

Ahead of the suspension of football and with senior men returning, the 19-year-old was perhaps wisely edged out of the spotlight by Owls boss Garry Monk as Wednesday’s form nosedived.

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But make no mistake, Urhoghide’s next chance will come. Youth development is something that Monk has been keen to stress is part of his vision going forward at Wednesday, with the likes of Alex Hunt and Preslav Borukov having also been involved in first-team involvement this campaign.

So what of that fleeting four-match learning curve? Who can Urhoghide – who has been described as a ‘football obsessive’ by previous coaches – sidle up to in order to drink in experience? He may well be wise to follow the example of rejuvenated colleague Dominic Iorfa.

Few knew what to make of leggy defender Iorfa heading into this season after an up-and-down first few months in Wednesday colours. He had his critics – far more than Urhoghide – and cruel nicknames of Dominic ‘Iawful’ had begun to crawl their way up from fanbases at previous clubs.

In the Owls’ last game at Brentford, a reporter who had watched Iorfa’s time at Ipswich Town crudely remarked how surprised he was that Iorfa ‘was still a professional footballer’.

Sheffield Wednesday centre-half Dominic Iorfa has been much improved at the heart of defence this season.

Thankfully, those judgements have largely been expunged with what could easily develop into a ‘Player of the Season’ effort for the Owls this time out. Iorfa’s development has been a stark highlight of a bleak-looking Wednesday effort.

Brought in from Wolves by Steve Bruce’s recruitment team in January last year, like Urhoghide, Iorfa’s early outings in Wednesday colours were spent at right-back. But it is at the heart of defence that has seen the former England youth international flourish.

It’s a path Urhoghide – whose four appearances have been on the right – will be keen to follow.

Speaking after the youngster’s dismissal in the 3-0 home defeat to Reading, Monk said: “You can see he's a very honest young lad, he plays with his heart and we have to remember he's playing in a position that is not his ultimate position - he's a centre back, that's how I view him.

Osaze Urhoghide has already tasted the highs and lows of professional football in just four appearances for Sheffield Wednesday.

“He's filled in in a few of the games and he's filled in in some difficult circumstances and he's always one that will give his all.

“He's one for the future - there's no real criticism, just experience he has to go through. Of course, we would like to avoid that [his red card] at this moment, but it is what it is.”

An eye-test shows that the pair have similar attributes – Urhoghide is smaller in stature but is athletic, comfortable on the ball and reads the game well. And a statistical comparison with Iorfa’s early days in first-team football makes for interesting reading.

Urhoghide’s passing success rate (79 per cent) is within one per cent of that of Iorfa’s first season of involvement on the right for Wolves in the 2015/16 season (78 per cent).

He wins 64 per cent of his defensive duels to Iorfa’s early days 65 per cent and 53 per cent of duels in general, to the older man’s 56 per cent.

Iorfa’s first brush with senior soccer was as a loanee right-back at Shrewsbury at the back end of the 2013/14 season, where he was in and out of the side having offered highs and lows in inconsistent performances.

Both have high interception stats – Urhoghide completes 6.13 per match in a limited data sample compared with Iorfa’s 5.55 in 2015/16 – and have caught the eye for daring, rampaging runs with the ball at feet. Urhoghide completed six of an incredible eight dribbles in the 2-0 win at Leeds.

Monk maintains that consistency is the aspect of Iorfa’s game that needs to improve but made clear centre-half is where he will stay long-term – a switch Urhoghide will wait on.

On the Iorfa’s switch inside the manager said last month: “It is the first time in his career he had a sustained period at centre-half, so he has still got a lot to learn in that position.

“You have also got to remember he has not a full season before in his career. He is not a seasoned pro and he is still learning like quite a few of the players. He has definitely made huge progress overall this season.

“Centre-back is where he wants to play and where he thinks he should be. He wants to prove himself there.”

That learning curve remains for Iorfa, then. Whether he is one day joined by understudy Urhoghide one day remains to be seen.

“It was a difficult one for him with the red card. That adds to his experience,” Monk said on the teenager.

“He's a fantastic lad, he's got quite a mature head on young shoulders and he'll always learn from the experience he's getting right now.”