When Jos Luhukay arrived in England five months ago, he inherited an Owls team struggling in the bottom half of the Championship and without a host of top performers due to an unprecedented injury crisis.
It was far from an indeal situation and Wednesday’s injury problems, to some extent, left the Dutchman with little alternative other than to promote players from the club’s academy into the first-team set-up.
Youngsters such as Jordan Thorniley, Frederik Nielsen, Connor Kirby, Jack Stobbs, Sean Clare, Connor O’Grady and Ash Baker were drafted in from the Owls’ Under-18s and U23s sides to beef up Luhukay’s main squad.
Some caught the eye and helped Wednesday revive their stuttering campaign. Others struggled to make the step up.
But several of the next generation played their part in the Owls ending the 2017/18 season strongly and securing a 15th-placed finish.
Defender Thorniley told The Star: “It means a lot to everyone to see so many players come through the academy. It shows the club really care about the academy and the coaching staff deserve so much credit. They work so hard.
“You don’t get anything easy in any job but especially in football. You have to work so hard to get your rewards.”
Baker became the latest player to roll off the Wednesday production line in the final-day thumping of Norwich City last month. His perseverance and patience finally paid off as Luhukay selected him in the right wing-back position. The Welshman, who is equally capable of playing at centre-half or in midfield, made a promising debut and received a standing ovation when he was withdrawn in the dying embers of the contest.
“I was made up for Ash,” said Thorniley, a first-half replacement for the departed Glenn Loovens. “I love it when the young lads make their debuts as I played alongside them in the youth teams. It is good to see them come through and, because I have been in and around the team, I can pass on information and give them advice.”
As Wednesday battle to stay inside the second-tier’s Profitability and Sustainability rules, the chances are Luhukay will continue to put his faith in youth next term. The 55-year-old has previously stated that a host of youngsters from the club’s U18s and development squad will be invited to train with the senior team in pre-season.