Rafael Floro and Liam Palmer may be taken out of the firing line at Elland Road, but Sheffield Wednesday captain Anthony Gardner believes their Owls baptism of fire will only help their long-term progress.
The Owls have been forced to throw in teenager Floro at left-back and push midfielder Palmer to right-back as all four full-backs at Hillsborough have been left sidelined by injury.
The makeshift defence has seen Wednesday lose their opening three matches, meaning first-choice pairing Lewis Buxton and Reda Johnson could return today after recovering from their knocks.
Portuguese defender Floro, 19, looks a real prospect while Palmer has matured after a season on loan at Tranmere last term and will be pushing for a midfield spot in Dave Jones’s side this season.
And Gardner knows all too well the daunting task facing rookies as he made his debut as a raw 17-year-old with Port Vale, before earning a move to Tottenham and Hull City.
“We’ve had our two more experienced players out injured; that can happen during a season,” he said. “Players have to step in and do the job, they haven’t looked out of place.
“I’ve felt confident in them (Floro and Palmer) next to me. It’s all good for their development and it’s good for the club that they are getting on.
“To be thrown in as a young defender is probably a bit tougher than for other players, because of the responsibility involved.”
“I was in the same position as them when I made my debut at 17. It can be quite daunting. All the more experienced players have a role to play, in that sense.
“Our young players have a lot of ability and they are very direct in their ways, especially Rafa; he is very enthusiastic and sometimes you need to have a calming influence on him.
“He wants to do everything, because he trusts his ability; that’s how it should be, but you need awareness as well on the pitch, and that comes with experience. I try to help him.”
Wednesday face Leeds this lunchtime seeking their first win of the season, and Gardner believes there has been a thin line between failure and success.
“I’d be more worried if our performances in the league games hadn’t been good,” said the 31-year-old. “There’s a lot to build on. But we need to start putting some points on the board sooner rather later, because where we want to be is at the top end of the table.”
“The boys are disappointed with the results. One or two goals could have been stopped. Others we couldn’t do much.
“The main thing has beeen the timing of the goals,. We’ve been either ahead or in control then conceded – it’s disappointing that when you’re playing well you concede. When it’s an evenly contested match, a goal changes the picture.
“We’ve been on the receiving end of our first two (league) game but we are very much upbeat because we have put in two decent performances. We’re just trying to iron out one or two things.”
Striker Chris Maguire could be handed a starting role after impressing as a substitute in defeat to Burnley.