Sheffield Wednesday: Young Owls defender reflects on breakthrough campaign

Frederik Nielsen moved to Hillsborough last September
Frederik Nielsen moved to Hillsborough last September
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From featuring regularly at Under-23s level to the grind and unforgiving nature of life in the Championship.

The 2017/18 campaign proved a memorable year for young Owls defender Frederik Nielsen.

Nielsen played four times in the 2017/18 season

Nielsen played four times in the 2017/18 season

After joining the Hillsborough outfit on a free transfer last September following a successful trial spell, the Danish centre-half quickly established him as a key figure in Wednesday’s development squad. Nielsen was an integral member of Neil Thompson’s side as the U23s topped the Professional Development League Two North over the Christmas period. His steady performances at the back prompted the Owls to extend Nielsen’s contract.

With the Owls’ injury crisis reaching epic proportions in January, Nielsen was one of a number of youngsters Jos Luhukay promoted from the academy to the first-team set-up.

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And Nielsen, a Denmark Under-19 international, made his competitive debut in Wednesday’s FA Cup third round replay with Carlisle United. He partnered Connor O’Grady and Frederico Venancio in the Owls’ three-man backline, helping the team keep a clean sheet and reach the next phase of the competition.

Connor O'Grady has also been given game time by boss Jos Luhukay

Connor O'Grady has also been given game time by boss Jos Luhukay

Nielsen made a further three appearances, coming off the bench in Championship away matches at Middlesbrough, Barnsley and Hull City. He found himself deployed as an auxiliary striker in the closing stages of Wednesday’s clash at the KCOM Stadium and almost capped a year of progress by getting on the scoresheet.

“The manager has been really good with me,” Nielsen told The Star. “I’ve enjoyed working with him.

“He got me involved a lot with the first-team over the last two and a half months so I’m really happy with that.

“It all started back in January when I played in the FA Cup and I’m very pleased with how things have gone.

“It gives you a lot of confidence when the manager puts faith in you and you are training with the first-team on a regular basis. It’s a big thing for a young guy like me. It boosts your confidence and is always something that is going to help you.

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“It has been a really good season for me and I’m happy to have been involved in the first-team. That’s what I want. I have turned 20 now and I think at that age you should be in and around the first-team of some kind so overall I’m really pleased.

“I just want to kick on from here.”

The emergence of Nielsen, O’Grady, Jordan Thorniley, Ash Baker and Sean Clare was a big plus point in a disappointing year for the Owls. None of them have looked out of their depth in the hustle-and-bustle of the second-tier.

Nielsen, contracted until June 2019, said: “The manager has shown he trusts the young players.

“It is important you grab the opportunity when it comes a long because you are not going to get a lot of chances. If you do well, you put yourself in a good position.

“I think that’s what me and a lot of young guys have done this season.

“It is important you grab the opportunity when it comes a long because you are not going to get a lot of chances. If you do well, you put yourself in a good position.

“I think that’s what me and a lot of young guys have done this season. I think we have proven ourselves and that’s credit to the whole academy right down to the coaches and the staff on the training pitch who prepare us to get into that first-team.”

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