"It's not a free ticket" - Neil Thompson delivers stern message to Sheffield Wednesday youngsters Alex Hunt and co

The appointment of Neil Thompson as Sheffield Wednesday caretaker manager will have been welcome news to the club’s younger players.

Tuesday, 5th January 2021, 12:28 pm

Thompson has vast knowledge of the Owls raft of academy graduates having worked in the Middlewood Road youth set-up for several years.

But asked whether Wednesday fans can expect to see them offered more opportunity to impress, the two-from two stand-in made clear younger players will have to earn their chances like anybody else.

“It's not a free ticket,” Thompson told The Star. “They’ve got to earn the right to do it and as I’ve always said to the young players when I’ve worked with them in the under-23s, when they get their chance in the first team in a Championship game, they’ll know what football is all about.”

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Liam Shaw is the Owls starlet to have taken the season by the bootlaces so far this time out, starring under Tony Pulis and earning a man of the match gong in the win over Derby last time out.

Thompson, too, has been impressed with Shaw’s adaptability and said it should act as inspiration for those around him.

He said: “He’ll say exactly the same, it’s white hot in there, it’s really quick and you’re playing against experienced players with good experience, good ability. It’s not easy.

“They’re good young players, and we’ve got one or two here that have got that scope, we think.

Alex Hunt is among the Sheffield Wednesday youngsters hoping for an opportunity to impress in this weekend's trip to Exeter.

“But it takes time. If you look at Shawy, it’s been stop-start, he’s been in, he’s been injured, he was sent off, he’s had 45 minutes, 60 minutes.

“But he’s on the first rung of the ladder. Every one of these is a learning curve for them.”

Wednesday make the coronavirus-threatened trip to Exeter City this weekend in the third round of the FA Cup, a match which could see several younger players handed a starting berth as Thompson looks to ease the load of senior players that have shown the effects of a manic fixture schedule so far.

Keiren Westwood, Chey Dunkley, Josh Windass, Massimo Luongo and Julian Börner are among the players injured. Further players are expected to be rested.

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