Sheffield Wednesday: Hillsborough dates aid kids

Lee Bullen says that playing U-21 games at Hillsborough benefits kids
Lee Bullen says that playing U-21 games at Hillsborough benefits kids

Playing at Hillsborough in non-first team matches can help youngsters’ development and prepare them for the real thing.

That is the view of Owls development coach Lee Bullen.

This season the Under 21s are playing all nine of their home games at the stadium rather than at the training ground.

Bullen revealed that the academy lobbied the board and management to gain permission for the switch:

“Last season was the initial breakthrough for the Under 21s,” he said, “As an academy we had been lagging behind a few other clubs in the area; last year was a learning process for us as an academy and for me as an Under 21 manager.

“This year, to take it to the next level, we felt we had to have a bit of a buy-in from the chairman, the chief executive and the manager; they were all behind us, and it was fantastic when they gave us permission to do this.”

The development squad’s 3-2 win against Coventry was their first home game of the season in the Under 21 Professional Development League.

The next one will be against Sheffield United a week on Friday, kick-off 1pm.

Bullen also reports a sympathic response from the ground staff: “’s not easy to keep a pitch in such good nick, even though it’s only nine extra games.

“We went to Leicester and Wigan last season and you could see the lift in the players when they walked out and looked around; they’re thinking they want to play at first-team level in that sort of environment, not just Under 21s.

“It’s a great lift for youngsters, playing at Hillsborough, and great experience - and the manager here has proved that young players will get opportunities.

“If anyone gets one and goes out to play in the stadium for the first time, that is a really daunting thing.

“But if you’ve already done it, even if it’s only in front of 50=odd people, you’ve had that experience.

“It’s a fantastic part of their development, and hopefully the next time they do it, it’s in front of 30,000 people.”

Caolan Lavery, who scored two in the Under 21s game against Coventry, was no stranger to playing at Hillsborough. He has been a sub for the first team and made his debut during the home game against Burnley.

The striker was also on the bench at Leeds and could be in the squad for this Saturday’s visit of Millwall.