Sheffield Wednesday’s youth are in good hands with Garry Monk, a man who isn’t just about the short term – Joe Crann’s column
Sometimes a youth promotion or two can paper over some cracks, give a quick boost and relieve some pressure, but the timing of a youngster’s step up can make or break a career, and in that sense Sheffield Wednesday seem to be in good hands.
“I’ve seen it before where people put a young player on the pitch just because it sounds good and it looks good for the club, and I’ve seen players who haven’t been able to handle that and then you don’t see them again… My job is to protect, and to make sure when they do go on the pitch, they’ve earned it and I feel it’s the right time.”
Those were the words of Garry Monk speaking this week, a couple of days after he named an 18-man Wednesday squad that had 10 academy graduates present and an average age of 23.5.
Since arriving at Hillsborough, youngsters training with the first team has become the norm at Middlewood Road as Monk looks to create ‘a pathway’ from the youth ranks to the professional ranks, and the results are quite clear to see.
Osaze Urhoghide, Liam Shaw, Conor Grant and Ciaran Brennan are all academy graduates who have been given Wednesday debuts since Monk’s arrival, while numerous others have been on the brink after making matchday squads over the last year.
But Monk is right. Timing is everything.
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough, but a player turning it on in the U23s doesn’t always mean that he’s ready for the Championship. It’s all about nurturing the talent, making sure that it is allowed to progress in the right way.
Monk’s words suggest that he’s not about to risk a kid’s career for the sake of a ‘I’m playing the kids’ pat on the back. Yes, he’s said there’s no point in having an academy if you’re not going to use them, but there’s also no point having an academy if the kids are set up to fail.
A lot of credit has to go to Steve Haslam for the work that’s been done in recent years. There’s been success at U18 and U23 level, and the fact that there’s likely to be at five or six academy players in the 18 against Watford this weekend is impressive – as well as new young recruit, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru.
It feels like forever since SWFC had a real purple patch with regards to youngsters coming through. We had Liam Palmer (shoutout for passing 160 games by the way), and then the goalkeeping duo of Cameron Dawson and Joe Wildsmith, but there have been far too many who have fallen by the wayside.
Now with the aforementioned players as well as young Alex Hunt and the re-emerging Matt Penney, there’s a real homegrown sense about this side – and that’s exactly what they’re going to need in this season’s dogfight. Players who want to see THEIR club do well.
It’s early doors of course, but the early signs are good, and Wednesdayites would love nothing more than seeing a bunch of their own get the job done this season.