Sheffield Wednesday: Owls set to decide on George Hirst’s pre-season programme

George Hirst
George Hirst

Hot prospect George Hirst has had less time than most of his Wednesday teammates to rest and recuperate over the summer.

The striker played almost 60 times for club and country in an unforgettable 2016/17 season.

The final act of Hirst’s memorable campaign came in the Toulon Tournament under three weeks ago when he helped England beat Ivory Coast 5-3 on penalties to retain their title. Although Hirst missed a spot-kick in the final, he finished top-scorer in the competition with four goals.

Along with the rest of the squad, Hirst’s physical condition will be assessed by Wednesday’s staff on Monday when the players are scheduled to reconvene at their Middlewood Road training headquarters for the first day of pre-season.

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Development boss Neil Thompson, pictured left, told The Star: “George had a long season in terms of game time.

“He played for the Under-18s and in the latter part of the season was with the U23s. It was a very demanding schedule for a young boy to cope with but if you are going to be a player you need to be able to play two or three games a week.

“If you go into a first-team environment, there are 40 to 50 games a season.

“When George comes back, we have to look after him. You get a lot of games in quick succession in tournament football.

“We will assess him physically and see what he needs in terms of pre-season. He might have a different pre-season programme to the others.”

Neil Thompson

Neil Thompson

It has been an outstanding two months for England’s youth sides, with the Under-21s through to the semi-finals of the European Championships, the U20s winning the World Cup and the young lions retaining their Toulon trophy. The U17s also reached the Euro 2017 final in May.

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Speaking on the You-Are-The-Ref show earlier this week, ex-Wednesday striker David Hirst, the father of George, said: “This summer we have had some great performances by England youth at 21s, 20s, 18s and 17s.

“It is looking good if the players get the chance to go out there and play and that’s the big problem as we all know. We don’t see too many youngsters making their debuts.

George Hirst celebrates scoring for Sheffield Wednesday's under 23s

George Hirst celebrates scoring for Sheffield Wednesday's under 23s

“It is few and far between these days compared to probably 30 years ago where the younger lads used to get in pretty regular.

“But they are certainly putting their stall out and making people stand up and have a look at the youth system in the game and it is going well.”

However, David, who watched England’s triumph in France, appreciates why managers don’t now always put their faith in youth.

“Clubs have big squads these days and in the past they haven’t have so I understand it,” he said. “It is a difficult game now.

“There is a lot of pressure and finance involved. Do you gamble with the youngster or do you go out and buy?”

*Young goalkeeper Dan Wallis has penned a one-year pro deal after impressing at U18 and U23 level.

Leicester-born Wallis joined the Owls in May 2015, completing a two-year scholarship. He played his part in the U18s reaching the play-off semi-finals and the U23s winning the Professional Development League 2 North and National Championship respectively.

Wallis, 18, said: “It’s been really exciting for me, I wanted to push forward as much as I could last season and it was a really good year for me.

“This has been something I thought I could do and it’s great to have that support and faith in me from the coaches at the club and my friends and family.

“Hopefully I can do the same next season and push on further, especially with the lads helping me through it as well.

“Andy Rhodes, Nicky Weaver, the first team squad and especially the goalkeepers, Keiren, Joe and Cam have really pushed me on and made sure my standards are constantly high.

“They have all been key in helping me to this point and hopefully I can prove my worth and repay that faith in me.”

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