Sheffield Wednesday fan column: An uncertain future for the young Owls
We have to start this week by congratulating the Sheffield Wednesday U18s who were crowned the Professional Development League North Champions.
They cemented their position by drawing with Sheffield United and leapfrogging Leeds United into first place. If only the U18s league reflected the Championship!
Despite being on the same points as Leeds, our goal difference was 18 more than the West Yorkshire team. An astonishing amount of potency in front of goal.
Wednesday and Leeds now go into play-off semi-finals against the top two from the South division, Cardiff City and Ipswich Town. Wednesday will play Ipswich this coming Saturday as they aim to become national champions.
Until Milan Mandaric took over at Hillsborough this wouldn’t have been possible. The continued rise of our academy has been one of the stand-out achievements at Hillsborough in the last 10 years.
Having this pool of talent is an enviable position, whether their journey is through to the first team or elsewhere. The issue with the Championship is that the pressure to get promoted means taking fewer risks on playing the younger players at the club.
Do we think that Steve Bruce will look at the development teams for next season?
Unfortunately there has to be a business plan when investing in development teams. If we’re not selling them on or blooding them in the first team then only buying or loaning experienced players, the development teams become a redundant expense.
The aim of the Elite Player Performance Plans (EPPP) are to enable clubs to develop better “home-grown” players. As a Category Two academy we are among the best in the Football League.
The rock and the hard place for our youth players is easy to see. It’s hard for us fans too. We want to see the likes of Matt Penney and Jordan Thorniley go on to be successful players in the way that Sheffield United have done with a player like David Brooks.
I can only see Steve Bruce buying and loaning players in the summer. With the momentum we have now we would be reckless not to strengthen and give promotion our all next season.
But where does that leave the openings for our youngsters?