Sheffield Wednesday: Why Owls new boy is keen to make his mark

Owls new boy Lloyd Isgrove
Owls new boy Lloyd Isgrove
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It’s the talent factory that just keeps on giving.

Southampton’s famous academy has nurtured footballers such as Gareth Bale - the world’s most expensive player - and England quartet Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.

Time and time again the Saints have placed their faith in youth, with those academy products fetching hefty transfer fees in over the last decade or so.

So what is secret behind their success?

Winger Lloyd Isgrove, who has joined Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Southampton until the end of the season, has told The Star: “Everyone always asks what is their secret.

“It’s just the training day in day out. There are a lot of youngsters who do train with the first-team quite regularly and I think that really helps. When the cup games do come, the manager is not afraid to put them in and you gain confidence from that and playing in the Premier League. It’s all about trust really.

“Southampton have a belief in their youth set-up. The managers trust the academy players and are prepared to put them in the first-team. I think that really does help.”

For Isgrove, fresh from signing a two-year contract extension at St Mary’s, the aim is to emulate that British brigade.

“I have grown up with quite of those lads,” he said. “I’m still mates with some of them.

“They have gone on to play in the Premier League and done well so I’m just looking to follow in their footsteps and play at the highest level that I can. Playing for Sheffield Wednesday is only going to help me.”

Stuart Gray, the one-time Southampton boss, has praised the South Coast club’s youth set-up.

“Southampton have got a history of developing players,” he said. “Their academy shows youth systems work.

“I’m a great believer if you get good training facilities it produces good players because they want to be out there working hours and hours.

“Hopefully Lloyd [Isgrove] will be successful, not just for Sheffield Wednesday, but also at Southampton, who have had some good wingers.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on Lloyd but if he’s as good as Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott then we’ve got some player on our hands.”

Opportunities for Isgrove to shine at Southampton have been at a premium this season. The former Welsh Under-21 international has featured just four times for the Premier League outfit, making his top flight debut as a second half substitute in their loss at Liverpool on the opening day of the campaign.

He said: “I thought I was going to push on after my debut but I got a knee injury in the cup game against Millwall which kept me out for a couple of months.

“After the injury, I had to get back match fit. Southampton brought a few loans in January so it was really tough to break into their squad. I knew I need to go out on loan to get some game time because I wasn’t really getting that at Southampton, specially with them doing so well.”

The 22-year-old said he learned of Wednesday’s interest in his signature on Tuesday. He trained with his new teammates for the first time yesterday.

“I have been playing recently for Southampton’s Under-21s and I knew a few clubs were watching me in those games so I just had to try and impress,” he said. “The most important thing is for me to be playing games regularly at first-team level so I’m looking forward to doing the challenge.

“I want to play as much as I can until the end of the season. I’m looking to impress and help the team win.”

Isgrove, predominantly right-footed, can be deployed on either flank. Gray said he is one of several wingers they have been tracking in recent weeks. Isgrove is in contention to make his Owls debut in tomorrow’s crunch South Yorkshire derby at Rotherham United.

“Lloyd is very quick, direct and can run at people,” said Gray. “We are grateful Southampton have let him come to us.

“We’ve not been able to replace Royston Drenthe since he’s left so it was an area we needed to strengthen.

“Southampton to Sheffield is a long way so it just shows Lloyd is willing to get out of his comfort zone and come and play football.

“It’s the next part of his learning curve and he will get plenty of opportunities at this club. He’s got a good football brain and I think he will do very well here.”