MANAGER Jos Luhukay is already planning for a new-look Sheffield Wednesday next season.
The Owls secured their Championship status with a 1-0 win at Hull City last weekend, but have had a season to forget.
After back-to-back play-offs Wednesday have endured an injury-ravaged season and sit a lowly 16th in the table, despite unprecedented financial backing from owner Dejphon Chansiri.
Now Luhukay – who replaced Carlos Carvalhal in January – must adopt a more frugal approach to rebuilding this summer as the Owls battle to stay inside financial fairplay rules on player recruitment.
Youngsters from the Owls’ Under-18 and Under-23 squads have this week been invited to train with the main squad with a view to promoting them to the first-team ranks.
Players like Jordan Thorniley, Frederik Nielsen, Connor Kirby, Jack Stobbs, Sean Clare and Connor O’Grady have already been drafted in from the Academy in 2018.
And with three homes games remaining – starting with tomorrow’s visit of Reading – Dutchman Luhukay will continue to assess the club’s youngsters.
“I don’t like the word experiment,” he said. “But this week, and the next few weeks, we have a lot of Under-23 players with us in training – also Under-18 players – so we can look at them.
“We don’t want to forget our own Academy players, so they have a chance to train with us.
“We want to keep an eye on our players, so that’s what we will do over the next three weeks.
“I want to see their potential; can they start with us in pre-season? Also some players will be placed in the squad next season. That will be decided in the next few weeks.”
Several first-team players like Atdhe Nuhiu, Glenn Loovens, Ross Wallace and Daniel Pudil will be out of contract in the summer.
Despite Wednesday’s troubled season there is also expected to be suitors for some of the Owls’ experienced campaigners like goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and striker Jordan Rhodes.
Westwood, 33, has not played since December due to a groin injury, but is expected to return for pre-season training, along with other long-term injured stars Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher and Lee.
Reports have linked Republic of Ireland international Westwood with Southampton, Celtic and Leeds United this week, but Luhukay insisted the Owls had not received any offers.
“I cannot say anything about his situation in the newspapers, nobody has made contact with us,” said Luhukay.
“We are doing our job with the players available, and at this moment, Keiren has been unavailable for a couple of months.
“He is working intensively to come back, but what the future brings us, we will see.”
Westwood’s injury means he is yet to play under Luhukay, Academy youngsters Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson taking over the gloves.
Asked if Westwood was still considered Wednesday’s No 1, Luhukay replied: “I live not in the past, I live in the future. From the first day it’s been Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson.
“Joe is, in my time, now the No 1. He has made a fantastic progression in the last months and made progression in his young career.
“But we have also Cameron, who is a fantastic goalkeeper.
“Every player must work for his position.
“Westwood is now working on his recovery and there should be no problem he will be 100 per cent fit for pre-season.”
After battling with a depleted forward line for much of the season, Luhukay has positive selection issues tomorrow with strikers Rhodes, Fernando Forestieri, Nuhiu and Lucas Joao all fit.
But like Westwood, Luhukay is yet to work with injured strike duo Hooper and Fletcher – or midfielder Lee – who have been out injured since before Christmas.
The Owls manager accepts he will have to be patient in pre-season as the long-term injured complete their rehabilitation.
“I have not worked with Steven or Gary, but know their quality,” said Luhukay.
“I hope when they come back in pre-season they can work on their own performances to reach 100 per cent.
“Steven will have been seven, eight months out when he returns, Gary six to seven months.
“They will take time to get back to their best form.
“We must be patient with these players.
“It’s not just four or six weeks out, they have been out for a long time,” added Luhukay, who is waiting on news on how long defender Joost van Aken will be sidelined after the Dutchman had surgery yesterday in Portugal on his injured ankle.
Luhukay confirmed: “Joost is a big question (for pre-season). He had an operation today in Portugal, so we are waiting on the news how long he will be out. Weeks or months, we do not know.”