Sheff Weds v Brentford: Isgrove aims to add goals to eye-catching Owls displays

Since the age of nine, Lloyd 
Isgrove has been learning football at Southampton’s renowned academy.

Sheffield Wednesdays Lloyd Isgrove, on loan from Southampton, goes on the attack (Picture: Steve Ellis).

He is three years younger than Gareth Bale, but spent plenty of time watching the future Champions League winner progress through the junior ranks at 
St Mary’s.

One of his best friends in football is the Arsenal and England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while other academy graduates such as Adam Lallana and James Ward-Prowse have gone on to become first-team regulars in the Premier League.

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Isgrove, a winger, has not found first-team football as easy to come by, but instead of sitting and waiting for the opportunity to come to him, he has “got off his backside” as Sheffield Wednesday head coach Stuart Gray puts it, to further his education.

Sheffield Wednesdays Lloyd Isgrove, on loan from Southampton, goes on the attack (Picture: Steve Ellis).

While Wednesday’s meandering season on a pudding of a pitch might be a far cry from the chase for the Champions League on a pristine surface, Isgrove knows exactly where he wants to be.

“I’m 22 and at my age the most important thing is playing regular games, Saturday-Tuesday, because that will improve me the most,” said Isgrove, who has made just two appearances for the Saints since debuting in August, 2012, but is experiencing only his second loan spell.

“Everyone asks what the secret is to the success of the Southampton academy, but all it is is getting youngsters training with the first team.

“And when the cup games come along they’re never afraid to put the young guys in.

“That confidence you get as a young lad training with the first team really does help.

“Some clubs don’t trust their youth and they don’t get a look in, but at Southampton the philosophy has always been to trust your young players.”

An eight-match loan spell at Peterborough yielded Isgrove’s one and only goal in professional football so far.

Despite some eye-catching performances in his four starts for the Owls, he has yet to get off the mark, a coincidence that will not be lost on Wednesday fans, who have seen their side score the fewest goals save for the three teams in the Championship’s relegation zone this season.

“I just need to add that to my game, scoring goals, and hopefully I’ll get a few before the end of the season,” said Isgrove, who became the latest player to try to explain Wednesday’s inability to score goals.

“It just hasn’t quite happened for them.

“We’re doing it right in training, but we’re then talking a matter of inches when it comes to the games with hitting the woodwork etc, so maybe we just need that bit of luck.

“If you look at Charlton on Saturday, the performance will have pleased the manager, we just didn’t convert our chances, and that’s probably been the case most of the season.

“If we keep the performances the same as they were Saturday, and take a few of those chances, the club would be higher up the division.”

Atdhe Nuhiu, the club’s leading goalscorer with 10 goals, ironically bore the brunt of the fans’ frustration, but Isgrove insists the blame should be shared.

“It wasn’t just Atdhe, I missed a couple of chances and (Caolan)Lavery hit the post as well,” he said.

“So it’s not down to any one person, it’s a group thing.”

To continue his footballing education, Isgrove accepts that if he is not in Ronald Koeman’s plans at Southampton next term, he will have to look for a season-long loan elsewhere, with Wednesday a “good option” in his eyes.

Should he score a couple of goals in the final four games of this season – particularly match-winners at Hillsborough – and the clamour for him to be brought back by a fanbase that have witnessed just four home wins in 21 league games, would be deafening.

Gray has said many times this season, on what has become a repeated inquest into their lack of goals, that he needs a striker who can score 20 goals.

But Wednesday are just not scoring goals from any department.

“I can understand the fans’ frustrations,” said Gray, in relation to the boos that rained down after they were pegged back to draw for the second home game in succession on Saturday.

“That’s been our Achilles heel this season, the inability to get the second goal or the first goal when it’s 0-0.

“We’ve got to keep believing, and I still believe.

“We need to get it right in both boxes because we’re not getting it right at either end at the minute.

“We know the home form has not been acceptable, not been good enough and it’s an area we have to improve on for now and next season.”

Last six matches: Sheffield Wednesday DLWDLD; Brentford LWDWDD.

Referee: M Brown (East Yorkshire).

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Brentford 0; November 5, 2011; League One.