This article is part of Football FanCast’sOpinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Two of the oldest squads in the Championship went head-to-head last night as Cardiff City hosted Sheffield Wednesday to kickstart the league’s return from the international break.
The Owls’ average squad age is the highest amongst the division at 28.1 with the Bluebirds following close behind in second with an average age of 27.6, per Transfermarkt.
It’s a cause for concern for Garry Monk as highlighted here, but what is potentially even more worrying is the fact that no player under the age of 23 has played a single minute for the club in the league.
What sort of message does that send to the club’s promising youngsters and the academy as a whole?
The attitude at Hillsborough has very much swayed in quick fashion over the last few years.
When Jos Luhukay took charge from Carlos Carvalhal, he inherited a large squad that was injury-stricken and ageing, so he took it upon himself to promote several youngsters into the senior fold.
The likes of Alex Hunt, Fraser Preston, Conor Kirby, Jordan Thorniley, and Jack Lee all featured at some stage – the former Owls boss even froze out Keiren Westwood, Sam Hutchinson, and George Boyd to try and implement this fresh and youthful vision.
But with football being a cut-throat results-driven business, the Dutchman struggled at the helm, and since then, the direct pathway from the academy to the first-team set up has blocked.
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Garry Monk has taken small measures to change that attitude by allowing Conor Grant and Hunt among others to train with the senior team, but that’s not enough to benefit the future just yet.
The 40-year-old said this soon after being appointed: “The point of a manager when you use young players is not just to put them in for the sake of it.
“Some clubs like to do that for the PR side of it, but my job as a manager is to have a good look at young players.”
He, of course, has a very valid point, but this current crop of players – all in their late 20s and early 30s – are soon to enter the twilight of their careers. This could well be the last window of opportunity if they are to reach the promised land.
Would you like to see youth more involved at Wednesday?
No, they need to earn it.
Therefore, Monk needs to start breeding through the youth as early as possible, and he is definitely the right man to do it based on his track record at his former teams.
Lewis Wing (Middlesbrough), Jude Bellingham (Birmingham), and Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United) can all thank their ex-manager for giving them the opportunity.