Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: Will Owls kids make step up?

Fraser Preston
Fraser Preston

It is just as well a talented new crop of youngsters are emerging out of Middlewood Road.

From the start of the 2018/19 season, English Football League clubs must name a minimum of one “club-developed” player in their matchday squads.

What is a club-developed player, I hear you say? It is one who has been registered to the club for at least a year before the end of his under-19 season.

Should any club fail to comply with the regulations, they will only be able to name six substitutes, rather than the normal allocation of seven.

Shaun Harvey, the EFL chief executive, said: “It is imperative that we provide young players not only with a platform, but also with the belief that opportunities will be made available to progress from youth to senior football.

“I am confident that this decision will have a positive and lasting impact on the future of football in this country.”

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It is hardly a big shake-up or earth-shattering development. If anything, the criteria is far too conservative. I would have preferred for the EFL to have pushed for the clubs to select two or three homegrown players in their squad, but maybe I’m being unrealistic.

Owls development coach Neil Thompson told me: “It will put pressure on everybody in the academy system in terms of bringing players through.

“We have to produce players for the manager to have a look at and who are good enough to get into the first-team squad.

“The more homegrown talent we get through then the better. It’s up to us to produce and the manager has to trust the players that come forward.”

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Will the change make a blind bit of difference? Who knows. I suppose anything that helps produce more players for the national team should be applauded.

With a bit of luck, the new rules won’t concern Wednesday anyway. Hopefully they will be back in the Premier League by then.

Whatever happens, the future looks bright for the Owls. The Under-18s finished second in their division and the development squad are a victory away from securing the Professional Development League Two North title.

Academy staff Thompson, Steven Haslam, Dean Ramsdale and company are doing fine jobs in nurturing the next generation. Forwards George Hirst, Jordan Lonchar and Fraser Preston have particularly impressed this season.

It is a big jump from youth ranks to senior football. Let’s see how many youngsters make the step up.

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