Sheffield Wednesday: Jack sets sights on first-team place

Jack Stobbs
Jack Stobbs
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In the summer of 2013, Jack Stobbs was still a schoolboy, sitting his GCSE exams at The Morley Academy in Leeds.

Twelve months on and the 17-year-old is now a professional footballer at his beloved Sheffield Wednesday.

Stobbs told The Star: “I left school in July last year after I finished my exams. I’ve always wanted to be a footballer ever since I was a little kid.

“I’ve been at Wednesday since I was six years old and I was so chuffed to sign my first pro contract in March. It’s been a big change but hopefully it’s the start of a long career.”

The talented winger made his senior debut in the Owls’ final home match of last season, coming on as a second-half substitute against Bolton Wanderers.

“It was a massive achievement and the proudest moment of my life when I got on,” said Stobbs. “I’m a Wednesday fan so it was a great feeling to play at Hillsborough.

“It’s a huge club and I just want to do well.”

The teenager has vowed to come back “fitter and stronger” after suffering ankle ligament damage in the development squad’s pre-season friendly at Matlock Town. His injury meant he missed the five-day warm-weather training camp in Slovenia and he is unlikely to return to first-team action until later this month.

Stobbs’ objective is to regain full fitness and force his way back into Owls boss Stuart Gray’s first-team plans.

He said: “I want to play as many games as I can but I know I’m going to have to bide my time. I’m not constantly knocking on Stuart’s door. I just want to be ready to play whenever he needs me.”

Head coach Gray said Stobbs is one for the future but is keen not to put too much pressure on him.

Gray said: “Jack is one of those who runs at defenders in one-versus-one situations and he’s got a great habit of putting the ball between the posts for someone to score. But the jump from playing under-18s to under-21s to first-team is huge.”

Stobbs accepts he is not the finished article.

“I’ve still got a lot of development to do,” he acknowledged. “I’m a young lad and I want to continue to learn.

“Hopefully over the next few years I can really push on and get a place in the starting line-up.

“Everybody in the academy have been great with me and always encourage me to do the best that I can. It is great working with somebody like Lee Bullen. He’s an Owls legend but you know you can speak to him whenever you want and he will give you advice.”

Owls Academy manager Dean Ramsdale has high hopes for Stobbs but vividly remembers the first training session he took part in with the senior players.

“I can remember David Prutton welcoming Stobbs’ into training with a crunching tackle,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t a handshake!

“It just goes to show that first-team football is a completely different environment.

“When the boys leave us, they leave the comfort blanket of the Academy.”

Stobbs appreciates it’s a big step up.

“The gap between junior and professional football is massive,” he said. “The players are so much stronger, players think quicker and the game is much faster.

“There is a big difference but you’ve got to adapt quickly if you want to play in it. If you pick up little things, that helps.”

Stobbs believes training frequently with fellow attacking midfielders Jacques Maghoma, Michail Antonio and Jeremy Helan has benefited him.

He said: “They are big influences on me. With them playing in the same position as me, I look up to them.

“I see what they do and what I need to improve on and add to my own game. They are always there to speak to and you can ask them anything. It’s good that they are there to help the younger players out.”

What are Stobbs’ main attributes?

“I’ve got a bit of pace and I like to take people on,” he said. “I like to get to the byline, get crosses into the box and, where I can, I try to get a few goals.”

In recent years, the Owls have loaned out Liam Palmer and Caolan Lavery to speed up their development and Stobbs admits he would be willing to leave Hillsborough on a temporary basis to further his football education.

“I would definitely be open to going on loan,” he said. “Experience is everything, especially at this level.

“If I have to go into the lower leagues to get experience to come back and play more regularly, then so be it.”