Sheffield Wednesday: Owls kids braced for their own play-off challenge

From left to right: Dean Ramsdale, Steven Haslam and Neil Thompson
From left to right: Dean Ramsdale, Steven Haslam and Neil Thompson

All eyes will be on the next generation at Hillsborough tonight as Wednesday’s Under-23s host Millwall in the play-off semi-finals of the Porfessional Development League.

Neil Thompson’s side, crowned as thePDL 2 north champions a fortnight ago, will be looking to maintain their fine season against a Lions side who finished runners-up in the southern section.

It is a one-legged semi final clash and the Owls earned home advantage after topping their league. Hull City’s defeat away to Birmingham City ensured Wednesday secured the title.

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Thompson told The Star: “I moved from the first-team to the academy four years ago and compared to then it is night and day.

“There has been a lot of work done behind the scenes, with Dean Ramsdale coming in as academy manager and one or two other staff arriving.

“Youth development is a long term process. You can’t turn it around in two minutes because you can’t go out and buy a £10 million pound player. You have to promote youngsters from within and that takes time.

“You have to look at the whole thing from recruitment right down to your technical and games programmes.”

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Cameron Dawson, Connor O’Grady, Jack Stobbs, James Murphy and George Hirst, who have all sampled first-team football, are in line to be involved.

“It is fantastic the Under-23s won their league and the 18s finished second in their division, but right through the age groups there has been a big improvement in the results and way we play,” claimed Thompson. “All of the guys in the academy have put the hard work in.

“There has been a lot of progress in the last four years but we have to continue with that. At the end of the day, our job is to produce more players for the first-team.”

The tie kicks-off at 7pm. Tickets are priced at £3 adults and £2 concessions. Entry is free of charge for season ticket holders on presentation of a valid 2016/17 season ticket card.

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