Date: 11th November 2007 at 7:50pm
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Hot prospect Mark Beevers is fast becoming an exciting name around S6 – one of a number. Ashley Ball has his say on why Wednesday fans have plenty to look forward to…

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Wednesday have a history of bringing through decent youngsters, amongst the most notable in recent years to represent the first team, or to move onto bigger things include; Ritchie Humphreys, Matthew Hamshaw, Steve Haslam, Alan Quinn, Leigh Bromby and Derek Geary (sadly the latter three now represent the other half of the city).

More recent youngsters such as Richard Wood and Tommy Spurr are now established first team regulars and the emergence of Mark Beevers and Rocky Lekaj, who have both had a taste of first team action, with Beevers and Lekaj earning professional deals despite having a year to run on their scholarship.

The current batch of youngsters at Hillsborough is meant to be a perfect blend of foreign and local talent.

Academy manager Sean McAuley suggests that this is the way forward.

Youngster Lekaj is a Norwegian national, despite being brought up in Kosovo, and now his brother Leon has joined the academy.

The Owls tradition of bringing through Irish players (Owen Morrison, Derek Geary, and Alan Quinn in recent years) has been maintained, in particular, the Derry area of Northern Ireland has brought two more young professionals, in Dave McClements and Liam McMenamin.

And now the Southern part of the Emerald isle has been scouted, with youngsters Aaron Mulligan and Jason Moc recruited as new scholars.

The Owls have maintained the recruitment of local youngsters however, with South Yorkshire lads Ashley Worsfold and Max Wragg added to the ranks of the first years.

Another exotic name added to the current academy is Mukhtar Mohammed, who has settled into the Sheffield area after moving from trouble stricken Somalia a few years ago.

The Owls have also made further youth links abroad, with the help of an ex player Juan Cobian, who has put the Owls in contact with an Argentinian club, with the view of starlets coming over from South America.

Strong links are also present in Canada, with North American Reid Fraser taking part in trials.

The latest affiliate to be mentioned is with a well regarded club based in Michigan, USA. The Owls will be hoping to make good use of a virtually untapped area, despite the eligibility of North American players for work permits, in comparison to the difficulties encountered in signing youngsters from Brazil and Africa.

So why the influx of foreign youngsters?

Certainly Premiership teams began this trend, and now the smaller teams are copying. It could be argued that English youngsters simply can’t cut it, or that it would be short sighted to have a youth team of all local lads; but as long as the Owls policy of having a blend of both local and foreign talent within their academy, a fair chance is given to both groups to win professional contracts.

This was evident at the end of last season when seven youngsters were given professional deals, locals Richard O’Donnell, James Kay, Mark Beevers, Jason Bradley and imports Dave McClements, Liam McMenamin and Rocky Lekaj, all gaining professional status.

Although clubs such as Yorkshire rivals Leeds United and Sheffield United may well be leading the way in young talent in this region, Owls fans have plenty to look forward to with the current batch gracing the Middlewood Road training pitches.

The future’s bright, the future’s blue and white…