SHEFFIELD Wednesday supporters have been handed a late Christmas present after Stoke City gave Ben Marshall the go-ahead to extend his temporary stay at Hillsborough.
Marshall has been a huge success during his loan spell with Wednesday, which was due to expire in January, and some Owls fans had hoped that the winger could complete a permanent switch to S6.
Those hopes appear to have been dashed after Stoke manager Tony Pulis revealed that his club have agreed a new three-year contract with the 20-year-old.
But Pulis, who enjoys a close relationship with Wednesday manager Gary Megson, doesn’t believe Marshall is ready for the Premier League just yet - and is happy for him to continue his footballing education under the tutelage of his old friend.
“He [Marshall] is not ready for us at the moment, but given time we think he can make the right sort of progress,” Pulis said.
“He’s impressed us in his time at Stoke. Now it’s up to him to knuckle down and continue improving in the years to come.
“I picked Sheffield Wednesday because I have such a good relationship with Gary and I knew he’d be looked after.
“I’ve been to watch him up there and he’s done smashing for them.”
Marshall has been instrumental in Wednesday’s impressive season so far: they travel to Preston North End on Saturday third in the Npower League One table, just one point and one place behind Steel City rivals Sheffield United in second.
“We would like him to stay up there for the rest of the season for two reasons,” Pulis added.
“One is the fact he needs games and he’s getting them with Wednesday.
“The other is the fact they are going for promotion and I want Ben to experience that.
“It will be good for his education to play in pressure matches and in front of big crowds with Wednesday.”
Megson, who also wants to bring Stephen Bywater back to Hillsborough after the Derby goalkeeper’s emergency loan expired, also hopes to have striker Gary Madine and defender Lewis Buxton back to full fitness in the new year.
Across the city, Danny Wilson hosts former club Hartlepool United at Bramall Lane on Saturday. Sheffield United then complete their holiday programme with a Monday trip to Carlisle.
United moved into the League One automatic promotion places on Tuesday with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Notts County at Bramall Lane.
And Wilson now faces a dilemma over whether to extend the short-term contract of James Beattie, as the veteran striker continues his fight for full match fitness.
Follow Danny on Twitter @dannyhall04.