Sheffield Wednesday: Jos Luhukay has one eye on the future as Owls look to finish poor year with a flourish

Frederik Nielsen was a late second half sub against Hull
Frederik Nielsen was a late second half sub against Hull
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Wednesday may be safe from the drop but don’t expect Jos Luhukay to experiment too much with his team over the coming weeks.

“I don’t like the word experiment,” he conceded at his weekly press call yesterday. “But this week, and the next few weeks, we have a lot of Under-23 players with us in training - also Under-18 players - so we can look at them.

Manager Jos Luhukay, left, and Barry Bannan

Manager Jos Luhukay, left, and Barry Bannan

“We don’t want to forget our own Academy players, so they have a chance to train with us.

“We want to keep an eye on our players, so that’s what we will do over the next three weeks.”

Injuries have decimated the Owls’ squad throughout a difficult and challenging 2017/18 season.

Nonetheless, Luhukay has put his faith in youth, giving first-team debuts to academy graduates Frederik Nielsen, Jordan Thorniley and Sean Clare. He has also given run-outs to Jack Stobbs and Connor O’Grady while development squad players Connor Kirby and Ash Baker have also been included in a number of matchday squads.

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Luhukay said: “I want to see their potential, can they start with us in pre-season? Also, some players will be placed in the squad next season, that will be decided in the next few weeks.”

Planning is well underway for next year, according to Luhukay.

As for the club’s summer transfer business, the Dutchman says he is acutely aware of where the Owls need to strengthen but is keeping his cards close to his chest.

“We have our thinking, philosophy and quality what we will have for the new season, in every position,” he said.

His immediate focus is on making sure Wednesday finish a disappointing season on a positive note.

Four victories in their last six matches has raised spirits at Hillsborough and extinguished any lingering fears of going down.

“The team has reached 50 points, but in the last months it’s not been a stable situation - we have not played with the same teams - but we have handled that,” said Luhukay. “We have never given excuses about injured players, and the players are working well.

“Last Saturday was very important, now we must not look what is below us in the league - we have our 50 points, we are staying in the league next season.

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“We now have two home games - plus a trip to the Wolves, the champions - it won’t be easy, but we will give our best.”

Next up is a home tussle with 19th-placed Reading. The Royals, who reached the Play-Off Final last year, are three points above the relegation zone with three matches left.

“Every season is not the same. Reading last year were in the play-off final against Huddersfield, but this season their performances have maybe not been what they wanted,” said Luhukay, who has confirmed defender Joost van Aken underwent his ankle operation in Portugal yesterday.

“A new manager has come, but the team is very good, they have a lot of quality - more than their position in the league (suggests) I think.”

Reading were held to a 2-2 draw against Sunderland last weekend.

Boss Paul Clement said: “Since I arrived the games have come thick and fast but now we’ve had some time to reflect on what’s happened.

“And more importantly we’ve had some good preparation time going into this game.

“We’ve got three really important games left and are not taking anything for granted.

“We’re in a good position in terms of the others in and around trouble so we have to get over the line now and finish the job off.”

Clement has rejected suggestions the Owls have nothing to play for, saying: “Players have always got something to play for because of that scrutiny that goes on with the fans, social media - they are always in the spotlight. They have to peform. Just because they’re not involved in a relegation battle or the play-offs means they can be considered dangerous.

“When there’s not that pressure players they can show a sense of freedom which can improve performance. We have to expect the best of Sheffield Wednesday.”

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