Sheffield Wednesday need to act fast as generation of Owls draw closer to SWFC exits – Joe Crann

We’ve seen it before at Sheffield Wednesday, haven’t we? The club have some real talent in the current crop of youngsters, and they need to make sure they don’t let them slip through their fingers.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 6:00 pm

Liam Shaw is the latest to step up. The teenage Wednesdayite has gone from training with the first team to making the matchday squad to scoring winners and claiming Man of the Match awards in the space of less than a year.

It’s great for the academy, and the first team is reaping the benefits, but in fewer than six months he’ll be out of contract and a free agent – something that would leave the club with nothing except a bit of compensation for the work they’ve put in.

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And he’s not the only one. There’s Osaze Urhoghide, who burst onto the scene with impressive performances against Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United last year, while others such as Alex Hunt, Liam Waldock (both of whom have options), Ciaran Brennan, Ryan Galvin and Declan Thompson are also – as things stand – going to be free agents come the 2021/21 season.

All of them have shown at some point over the last 18 months that they’ve got something about them and have potential, and no doubt there will be clubs out there willing to take a chance on them if they were to move on.

And with that in mind, they’re all assets. No matter who might be looking at them – whether it’s teams above Wednesday or below – if they’re contracted, then they’ve got a value. So from a business perspective it makes sense, too.

Obviously there are other things to sort out right now. Dejphon Chansiri is hunting for a new manager, and there’s the matter of several senior contracts that are also coming to an end, but I just hope that that doesn’t mean the kids are overlooked.

Sheffield Wednesday have a number of young players who will be out of contract in the summer. (Pic Steve Ellis)

Chansiri told The Star recently that they’ve been talking to the youngsters ‘for a while’, but spoke of how some in the past have ‘thought they were too big’, insisting that they have to remain within their wage budget. And that’s understandable.

But with Shaw, for instance, he has already spoke of his joy at playing for his boyhood club and how he’d love to sign a new deal. And Several other youngsters are also Wednesdayites and would also be open to committing their futures to SWFC – hopefully that’s what the club wants too.

In total 16 Owls academy graduates have made matchday squads under the various different Wednesday managers this season, while 13 have featured in either the Championship, Carabao Cup or FA Cup. That’s a stat that is very appealing to young players eager to take the step up – but they need to feel wanted.

In the past we’ve seen youngsters handed one-year deals, possibly with options, but for the current crop it might be worth Wednesday showing that they believe in their abilities by thinking a bit more long-term.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, as the likes of Sean Clare and – to some extent – George Hirst have found out - we can only hope that the current crop of players sign new deals before considering testing those waters for themselves.

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