Sheffield Wednesday: Youth the way forward in Jos Luhukay’s Owls revolution

Wednesday Under-23s boss Neil Thompson
Wednesday Under-23s boss Neil Thompson
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Jos Luhukay has placed a big emphasis on youth since succeeding Carlos Carvalhal at the start of January.

The Dutchman has promoted from within, giving game time to a plethora of Wednesday’s academy players over the last four months.

Owls chief Jos Luhukay

Owls chief Jos Luhukay

Yes, some of them featured due to Wednesday’s unprecedented injury crisis.

But Luhukay has made it his mission to build his team around young players and he already has his eye on the next batch coming through at Middlewood Road in preparation for next season.

His vision and blueprint for the future is clear and a whole host of the Owls’ Under-18s and U23s will be invited to train with the first-team when pre-season begins on June 25.

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Neil Thompson, the U23s boss, told The Star: “It is great for me, the academy staff and also for the players that the manager is taking such an interest in the youth set-up.

“It is fantastic for the players but they have to raise their game. If they think that U18s to 23s is a step up, 23s to the first-team is huge. Massive.

“You’ve got to be right, physically be fit for purpose and you have to show your quality.

“It’s survival of the fittest. Only the strong survive when you go up to first-team level.

“It’s dog eat dog and you have got to be able to handle that. The biggest thing about going up to first-team level is handling the pressure when you go out on the pitch on a Saturday in front of twenty plus thousand fans at Hillsborough. That’s pressure.”

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Excluding goalkeepers, Luhukay has given 1,399 league minutes to Wednesday’s academy players in his four months at the helm. In stark contrast, Carvalhal gave just 24 minutes in his two-and-a-half-year reign.

Luhukay has handed debuts to the likes of Ash Baker, Jordan Thorniley, Frederik Nielsen and Sean Clare.

“If I was a player in the academy right now, I would be asking the guys who have played what is it like and try to glean information from them,” said Thompson.

“But everyone is individual and handles pressure differently. It is about how they handle different situations.”

Thompson’s men narrowly missed out on retaining their Professional Development League Two North crown. A point would have been enough in their final fixture against Burnley last month but the Owls, despite taking the lead through Preslav Borukov, slipped to a 2-1 defeat to fall to third in the standings.

“Last year we won it (the title), this year we’ve had a cruel way to lose it,” conceded Thompson.

“Hopefully they have experienced something that will stand them in good stead.”

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