Sheffield Wednesday starlet Liam Waldock talks contracts, his future and getting whacked on loan
Sheffield Wednesday is pretty much all Liam Waldock has ever known… But now, whilst on loan with Gainsborough Trinity, he’s experiencing something new.
The 21-year-old midfield man has worked his way up through the ranks at Middlewood Road over the years, but was sent out to Gainsborough in order to gain some valuable senior minutes by Darren Moore as the Owls keep a close eye on his development.
Waldock, who made his senior debut for his boyhood club in the Carabao Cup last year, may be away from S6 at the moment, but there is no doubt in his mind about where he wants his future to be – even though his contract is now expiring in just over six months.
“I’ve supported Sheffield Wednesday all my life,” he tells The Star. “I’ve been playing at the academy since I was eight, so yeah, of course it’s still a dream of mine to play for the club. It’s a massive club that I love, all my family are Wednesdayites, so playing for Wednesday is what I want to do.
“They’ve just said to me to go out, enjoy my football and enjoy the change of scenery, really. Nothing’s been said about my future and my contract, they just want me to play – which I’m doing.”
Waldock has done his stint in U23s football, playing at that level for a number of years before dipping in and out of first team training, and Darren Moore’s decision to get more youngsters out on loan is one that has certainly benefitted the youngster, who says he’s already a better player because of it.
But how did Waldock’s loan move happen?
He went on to say, “Basically I had a meeting with Darren Moore, and he just said to me that going out on loan would be a good opportunity get regular game time and play men’s football – a couple of weeks after that Gainsborough came in, and I just wanted to get going and go play some football.
“I didn’t mind dropping down a couple of levels, for me it was more about making sure I was playing 90 minutes on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and I think it’s done me good. It’s better than U23 football, because I think I was past the U23s.
“Where I’m playing now means something to the fans, where the U23s doesn’t really mean anything… My manager here (Tom Shaw) is a really good guy, and after I’d spoken to him I’d pretty much made my decision that I wanted to play for him.”
Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and Waldock has now established himself as a regular at the heart of Trinity’s midfield, and their form has improved dramatically – losing just two of their Northern Premier League games since his arrival in September – as he sets about shoring up the middle of the park.
“I’ve always been a composed footballer,” he explained when asked about his experiences so far. “But I knew that I needed to get better at my off-the-ball stuff. And also, getting a whack sometimes helps you grow up – and it happens a lot at this level! I’ve enjoyed that, and I’ve enjoyed giving it back as well.
“I’ve had a few challenges against me, and given some back, and it’s not always nice – but you’ve got to get on with it… It’s a tough league here, with some good teams, and you’ve got to stay switched on all the time because ‘owt can happen.
“For me, playing week in and week out against different opposition has been good, and using different game styles is good for my development too. I’ve had to get the ball down and play, I’ve had to scrap it out, and I think my game has come on a lot. I feel like I’m more aggressive now, and becoming a more all-round midfield player. I think I've grown a lot."
And it’s certainly not a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for the Owls youngsters now scattered around the English football pyramid, who are regularly in contact with the club – and each other…
“After each game somebody from Wednesday will get in contact to see how we are, and they obviously have all our clips that are sent through by Gainsborough. So they’ll check up on us to make sure we’re doing alright.
“And us youngsters still speak all the time… We’ve got each other on WhatsApp, so we text each other and see how each of us are getting on. You can see that everyone is doing well, and most importantly they’re playing games – that’s the best thing about it.”
And he’s not wrong… After years of under-utilising the loan market, Moore’s arrival has signalled the start of a process that has seen Wednesday’s youngsters sent all over the place.
Cameron Dawson, although not a young per se, is pushing for the Play-Offs in League Two in Exeter City, while Alex Hunt and Grimsby Town are flying high in the National League as they aim for automatic promotion from the National League, and then you’ve got your Ryan Galvins, Luke Jacksons, Ciaran Brennans et al who are out on the road picking up much-needed senior minutes. From the outside looking in, it’s refreshing.
Nobody knows what the future holds for Waldock, but as far as he’s concerned he’s just looking at the here and now. And while Gainsborough might want to extend his loan again – they’ve already done so once – the young Owl is just focusing on the football.
“We’re doing well,” he said. “But we’ve just got to take it game by game. I’m speaking to the club, and my agent, but we’ll just see what happens.”