Sheffield Wednesday: The youngsters best placed to make an impression on Steve Bruce next season
Sheffield Wednesday yesterday announced that they will face League One newcomers Lincoln City, League Two Northampton Town and non-league Stocksbridge Park Steels as part of their pre-season preparations.
The Owls – who will be gearing up for their first full season under the stewardship of manager Steve Bruce – will split up into two squads and will travel to both Sincil Bank and the Look Local Stadium on Saturday, July 13, just three days before travelling south to face Northampton.
It is expected that both squads will feature players from Bruce's senior squad and members of Neil Thompson's Under-23s side.
Here, we take a close look at five players from the U23s side that could fancy their chances of making a strong impression on Bruce next term.
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Renowned as one of the hottest properties in Wednesday's youth set-up, Irish midfielder Conor Grant could see the 2019/20 campaign as his big, breakthrough season.
Signed from Shamrock Rovers in the summer of 2017, the 17-year-old has gone from strength to strength at Hillsborough, already becoming a key fixture in Thompson's U23s side.
And his strong performances at U23 level, plus his exploits in Andy Holdsworth's U18s team, saw him travel with the first-team squad for the 2-0 success over Bolton Wanderers back in March.
While, of course, there is an excitment surrounding the youngster, who netted the only goal in the U18s 1-0 PDL2 National Play-Off semi-final triumph over Ipswich Town back in April, boss Thompson has warned him to keep his feet on the floor.
Thompson said: "It was good to see Conor in the squad for the Bolton game. It gave everybody in the academy a lift.
"But with any young player, it is all about keeping your feet on the ground."
Awarded his Owls debut at the back-end of the 2017/18 season under former boss Jos Luhukay, Connor Kirby was another one that was expected to flourish under the Dutchman's youth policy.
But Kirby's chances of following in the footsteps of fellow academy star Jordan Thorniley never really got off the ground. By the time Luhukay was axed back in December, Kirby had made just three apperances last season, all of which came from the bench.
Since Luhukay's departure, Kirby has been an ever-present figure in the U23s side, even being handed the responsibility of captaining the team.
Though only 20-years-old, Kirby may be fancying his chances of breaking into Bruce's plans ahead of next season, especially when the Owls boss has placed an emphasis on freshening the squad up with a younger dimension.
While there is a great excitment surrounding the talent of Grant, there is also plenty of hype surrounding the qualities of Liam Shaw.
The talented midfield dynamo, who signed his first professional deal with the Owls back in December, produced a string of fine performances last term, in both the U18s and U23s.
For Shaw, it would most likely be a dream come true if he was to burst into the first-team fold in the coming months, with him having been on the Owls' books since the age of eight.
Shaw, who scored twice in the U23s 5-1 romp of Crystal Palace at Hillsborough last term, played an instrumental role in helping the U18s clinch the PDL2 National title.
Regarded as one of the hottest, young properties in the Championship, Alex Hunt was tipped by many to become a key part of Luhukay's plans last season.
The former Wednesday boss had placed an emphasis on youth from day one of his tenure and it was expected that Hunt would be an integral part of the Dutchman's philosophy.
However, though Hunt was awarded his senior Owls debut by starting the 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Sunderland last August, he sturggled to kick-on from that moment, with him yet to feature for the first-team since.
But there is no doubting the talent Hunt has. The youngster, who has been on the Owls' books since the age of eight, likes to get on the ball in the centre of the park and make things happen.
And with his contract due to expire next summer, he will be targeting the forthcoming campaign as one to shine in and make Bruce acutely aware of his qualities.
Understood to have been offered a new deal by Wednesday this summer, Fraser Preston is another member of the club's academy who has the potential to break into Bruce's plans next season.
The Scotland youngster, who has been on the Owls' books since U14 level, is another that comes with a lot of talent attatched to his name.
The winger was awarded a senior debut by Luhukay last August, including a surprise start in the 2-1 win over Millwall over Fernando Forestieri, a night in which Luhuaky's bold team selection paid dividends.
Whether Preston will committ his future to the Hillsborough club remains to be seen. But if he does, the youngster will be hoping to make a strong impression on Bruce.?????????????????????