Lee Bullen on the ‘hardest part’ of his Sheffield Wednesday job – and the importance of loan spells for young Owls

Sheffield Wednesday’s U23 side are very young this season, and Lee Bullen says that managing the group after defeats is going to be the hardest part of his job this year.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 12:06 pm

After a host of exits over the summer, Bullen’s U23 side is largely made up of teenagers recently promoted from last year’s U18s, as well as a number of players part of the current U18 setup.

With that in mind, their difficult start to the Professional Development League this season should not come as too much of a surprise – and ‘Bully’ admits that it’s going to be a difficult campaign for his young side.

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Speaking to The Star recently, the former Owls defender said, “Youngsters can get so wrapped up in things… If they make mistakes they take it to heart, and defeats too. It’s the hardest part of my job this year, I think, because we are going to lose more games than we’re going to win – purely down the physical side of things and the lack of experience at this level. But when you keep four or five of them who are doing well for next year, and then you start recruitment for next year – and they’ll be ok.”

One reason for the young average age of his side – 11 of the Wednesday players in the squad for the 1-0 defeat to Barnsley were 19 or younger – is because of the amount of players out on loan this season, and their boss admits that he’s pleased to see them playing senior football, with the pressure that comes with it.

He went on to say, “If we’re doing our job right at academy level, then we’ll see these boys going on to play either in the first team – which a few did last year – or getting out and playing senior football, whether it’s League One, League Two or Non-League.

“Look at the stories of David Beckham going to Preston, and Harry Kane and Leyton Orient – all these things help their progress. And the experience that Ciaran (Brennan) can get at Notts County, and Alex (Hunt) at Grimsby, Ryan (Galvin) at Gloucester – they’re going to come back more rounded players, and much more toughened to the real life of football.

Lee Bullen says Sheffield Wednesday's youngsters will benefit from their loan spells away. (via SWFC)

“Personally I think U23 football is cotton wool football at times… They take it to heart, but it doesn’t really mean anything. When you’re at a Grimsby or Notts County, that’s when there’s pressure from the fan base.”

On top of Brennan, Hunt and Galvin, Wednesday also have the likes of Luke Jackson, Charles Hagan, Liam Waldock (who has just extended his spell with Gainsborough Trinity) out on loan as they look to get more senior minutes under their belt, with all of the youngsters getting plenty of playing time since departing Hillsborough on a short-term basis.

The next competitive game for Bullen’s side will see them host Peterborough United on October 15th at Hillsborough, and they’ll be hoping that they can pick up their first win of the season after what has been a difficult start to the campaign.