Swansea City v Sheffield Wednesday: Setbacks and challenges have made Di'Shon Bernard grow up fast

Di'Shon Bernard is only 22, a year younger than former Sheffield Wednesday academy player Jamie Vardy was when he swapped Stockbridge Park Steels for Halifax Town en route to becoming a Premier League champion and England international.
LOAN SPELL: At Hull City Di'Shon Bernard learnt what it was like to be at a club trying to re-establish itself in the ChampionshipLOAN SPELL: At Hull City Di'Shon Bernard learnt what it was like to be at a club trying to re-establish itself in the Championship
LOAN SPELL: At Hull City Di'Shon Bernard learnt what it was like to be at a club trying to re-establish itself in the Championship

Some 22 year-olds are younger than others. Owls centre-back Bernard has packed a lot into his time – just as well given the task ahead.

Hillsborough is not a place for shrinking violets right now, and nor will the Liberty Stadium be on Saturday when Swansea City and the Owls each go looking for their first Championship win of the season.

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At least Bernard has a lot of experience to call on already.

AMMIE TIME: Di'Shon Bernard was at Salford CityAMMIE TIME: Di'Shon Bernard was at Salford City
AMMIE TIME: Di'Shon Bernard was at Salford City

A boyhood Chelsea fan, he was dropped by their academy aged 16 having been behind Tariq Lamptey, now of Brighton and Hove Albion, in his then-position of right-back.

Manchester United picked him up and played him in the Europa League, on an indoor Kazakhstan pitch against Astana in 2019. It was his only first-team appearance for the Red Devils and he marked it by scoring the wining goal – for Astana.

Loans at Salford City, Hull City and Portsmouth taught him to grow up quickly.

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At Salford he played under Paul Scholes for a club whose wealth and profile drew jealousy in League Two. The Ammies got to Wembley but he was cup-tied when they lifted the Football League Trophy.

Hull were in a similar position to the Owls, trying to re-establish themselves in the Championship after promotion. At Portsmouth he experienced a club with a grand past who had not lived up to it in recent times, much like the one he joined this summer after Manchester United released him.

The proud Wandsworth-born Jamaican has spent the last year playing international football.

Life in Premier League academies has a reputation for being soft – big wages for unproven talent, near-perfect facilities and not an overweight 30-something with a hankering for kicking fancy-dans in sight.

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"People do try and say the academies are soft but when you're at these big academies it's not all fun and rainbows," he stresses.

"When you're not performing they will get someone else in so you're always looking over your shoulder. The mentality is very tough."

More importantly, the expectations that come with two Premier League clubs on a CV, documentary crews following him in League Two, being at Hull in the midst of a takeover which left manager Grant McCann a dead man walking, not to mention the Fratton Park soap opera, have taught him to focus.

"The noise" as they call it these days is never far from Hillsborough. If the chairman is not rowing with a former manager – hopefully Darren Moore's appointment as Huddersfield Town manager will soon draw a line under that – there is speculation about how current incumbent, Xisco Munoz, can cling to his job without results to buy time. Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough was briefly interrupted by a flurry of tennis balls thrown onto the pitch in protest at Dejphon Chansiri's chairmanship. Not for the first time this season, Wednesday's winless players were booed off.

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"I don't really know what's happening with that (protests), our job is to go on the pitch and perform,” insists Bernard. “It's us against the opposition and we try to give our best all the time.

"The win hasn't been coming but we know it eventually will and the spirit will be back up."

Modern football is said to have a shortage of leaders but Bernard showed character on Tuesday, taking it upon himself to carry the ball out from centre-back and pull it back for Anthony Musaba to give his side a lead which, like their confidence, they could not hold.

"Sometimes you have different (types of) leaders – leaders in the dressing room, on the pitch, outside," says Munoz when asked about his characters in his dressing room. "The values of the team are important for me.

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"You never see our team go down (mentally). We have difficult moments sometimes in the games but our team tries to give 100 per cent and this are the values we want to introduce to the dressing room.

"Dev (Vasquez) is an experienced player, when (Liam) Palmer is playing he's a good leader, (Callum) Paterson, Will (Vaulks), Bambo (Diaby) is important and the new players need to show their personality inside the pitch. They can follow the players who were here before."

Bernard is one of those new players in a dressing room overhauled since promotion but at an age where he could be forgiven for following, he looks to have the makings of a much-needed leader.