Why Sheffield Wednesday’s Under-18s can hold their heads up high this season
Whatever happens on Friday evening at Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday's Under-18s can hold their heads up high after a memorable season.
Andy Holdsworth's men entertain Cardiff City in the National play-off final this week seeking to complete a remarkable double.
Less than a fortnight has passed since the Owls' academy side secured the Professional Development North title after a hard-fought draw at Sheffield United. They lost just three of their 28 fixtures en route to pipping rivals Leeds United to top spot.
The top two clubs from the north and south regions qualified for the end of the season play-offs to determine the national winners. Wednesday edged past Ipswich Town in the semi-finals last weekend after Conor Grant's first half penalty while Cardiff, who finished top of the south league, saw off Leeds in the other tie.
Holdsworth told The Star: "Our aim at the beginning of the season was to qualify for the play-offs. We knew if we finished around Leeds and Nottingham Forest we would be up there so to win the league was a great achievement for the lads.
"I think we have an exciting group. We have players who have got pace and individuals who can manipulate and look after the ball.
"I think that is shown by quite a few of the second years going up to play with the Under-23s this season. Liam Waldock, Conor Grant, Isaac Rice and Josh Dawodu have all been in and around the 23s.
"And then you have had players who have been in and around the first-team like Liam Shaw, Rice and Grant so that is pleasing from our point of view.
"All we are trying to do is develop kids on and off the pitch."
The final gets under way at 7pm. Tickets are priced at £3 adults, £2 concessions and entry is free for season ticket holders.
"As coaches, we want them to go out there, do the right things and do the basics right," said Holdsworth. "It really is a long season but the boys have done the club proud.
"If you look at the last six games, we have had to stay strong and keep winning the games to stay where we are so well done to them.
“It has been tough for them mentally."