Sheffield Wednesday announced the departure of Ash Baker on Monday afternoon as he joins League Two side Newport County for an undisclosed fee, highlighting a concern for the future of their academy prospects.
Earlier this month, manager Garry Monk claimed that the 23-year-old was free to leave the club on loan this month, presumably to prove his worth with his contract set to expire in the summer, but instead, he’s been sold.
The Owls graduate has signed an 18-month deal at Rodney Parade. His new manager, Michael Flynn said: “Ash is a very important signing for us. With us losing Danny McNamara back to Millwall and Dan Leadbitter not quite back from injury, as soon as we had the chance of getting Ash in we jumped at it.”
While Baker himself added: “As soon as I found out there was interest, it was a no brainer for me to come back home to Wales and accept this great opportunity.”
His departure should be viewed as a blow to those in the academy set up currently as it’s clear to see that the pathway into the first-team is rather difficult and that’s reinforced by two key statistics.
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The Owls currently have the second-oldest squad in the division with an average age of 27.8, narrowly younger than Cardiff City (28.0), per Transfermarkt.
And only once all season has an under 23 player been fielded in the Championship, which was at the weekend when Osaze Urhoghide kept his place at right-back.
Matt Penney, Conor Kirby and Liam Shaw are all out on loan getting valuable game time but it seems unlikely that it’s in the hope of breaking into the first team.
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This latest decision by Monk offers the current youngsters a concerning outlook to the future. If you aren’t good enough in his mind, then there’s very little chance of forging a career at Hillsborough.