Neil Thompson says Sheffield Wednesday playing youngsters in the FA Cup 'can't do them any harm'

CARETAKER: Neil Thompson is in temporary charge of Sheffield WednesdayCARETAKER: Neil Thompson is in temporary charge of Sheffield Wednesday
CARETAKER: Neil Thompson is in temporary charge of Sheffield Wednesday
Caretaker-manager Neil Thompson says exposing some of Sheffield Wednesday's youngsters to one of the Premier League's best sides cannot have done them any harm.

Some managers are scared off throwing young players in at the deep end for fear of the damage it might cause them.

In fairness, with his club still emerging from the effects of a Covid-19 outbreak, Thompson had few alternatives but to field Ciaran Brennan, Osaze Urhoghide and Ryan Galvin in the FA Cup fourth round at Everton. Liam Palmer was deemed fit enough for the bench but not to start and Matt Penney, another youngster who joined the fray in the second half, was the only other specialist defender amongst the nine visiting substitutes.

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“It can't do them any harm," said Thompson of the youngsters' involvement against an Everton side which apart from a change of goalkeeper was at full strength, and won 3-0. “I always think with youngsters, they never tend to disappoint you in terms of their application and there's a real window of opportunity from the age of 19 to 22 to get minutes on the table but that gives you your grounding for what lies ahead when you get into your mid-20s.

“That's where you try and establish yourself as a player in first-team football. It's different from coming from an under-23s game or an under-18s game where there's not quite as much on it, the intensity's not quite the same. You're playing against seasoned pros.

“You've got to ask the question of them – can they cope with it?

“Certainly the ones who played at Everton have acquitted themselves when and when they get that opportunity again, they've got to be ready.”

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Thompson, who has been working with the Owls' junior teams for almost a decade but has been in temporary charge of the first team since Christmas, also named a youthful side for the third round trip to Exeter City, when the club's Covid problems were at their height.

Despite or perhaps because of his background, he insists he will not pick youngsters just for the sake of it.

“You only tap into it when you think they're ready for it,” said the former York City and Scarborough manager, who played for both clubs and Barnsley. “They've got to be able to cope with the rigours of the game.

“Just because I've been an academy manager at Leeds and did the under-23s and I've done the under-18s here and worked in the academy. It's not a given that they're going to be able to handle it.

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“I know as well as all the coaching staff do it's a big jump from 23s to Championship football, like it's a big jump from playing in the Championship to playing a Premier League team. There is a gulf.

“We bridged a little bit I thought in the first half at Everton.”

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