Sheffield Wednesday boss Jos Luhukay brings striker George Hirst in from the cold

George Hirst will feature for Sheffield Wednesdays Under-23s at Leeds United on Friday, his first appearance for the club at any level this season.George Hirst will feature for Sheffield Wednesdays Under-23s at Leeds United on Friday, his first appearance for the club at any level this season.
George Hirst will feature for Sheffield Wednesdays Under-23s at Leeds United on Friday, his first appearance for the club at any level this season.
Sheffield Wednesday have not given up hope of keeping England youth striker George Hirst at Hillsborough.

The 19-year-old will finally make his first Owls appearance at any level this season when he features for the club’s Under-23s at Leeds United today.

The striker – who netted 40 goals for club and country last season – has not played for Wednesday during the 2017-18 season after a contract dispute.

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But The Yorkshire Post understands the Owls and the player’s representatives have resumed talks, about agreeing a new deal, with his current contract set to expire this summer.

Hirst – whose father David was an iconic player for the Owls in the Eighties and Nineties – has resumed training with the first team this week after being frozen out for much of the campaign.

Wednesday have been decimated by injuries – the Owls are without 16 players for tomorrow’s visit of Aston Villa – and Hirst has seen fellow Academy youngsters Jack Stobbs, Jordan Thorniley, Sean Clare, Connor O’Grady, Connor Kirby, Ashley Baker and Frederik Nielsen break into the first-team squad.

Hirst – whose only first-team action came as a substitute in 2016 – was largely ignored by former Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal even before the striker’s contract problems started.

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But Carvalhal’s successor, Dutchman Jos Luhukay, has been keen to promote Wednesday’s youngsters.

And with a new chief executive officer at Hillsborough in Katrien Meire the Owls are hoping a breakthrough can be made to keep Hirst at S6.

“This week he has trained with us,” confirmed Luhukay. “He plays (today) with our Under-23s.

“So that’s a positive situation at this moment.

“I don’t know how is the future, but at this moment he is training and can also play for us.

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“He’s a young player who has not played any football for seven or eight months. He now needs match games to get to the best best level.

“I know he’s a very talented footballer.

“Every week I keep an eye on our young players.

“In the next weeks and months maybe we will have more players from the Under-23s or Under-18s play for us.

“When you go seven months without a game in the competition you cannot expect the player to be 100 per cent in his best performance.

“It is the same for every player. We must help the players to come to the best situation for themselves and then they can help the team.

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“I am not involved in the situation in what happened in the past.

“In the future you always have two parts: one is the club, one is the player. Both see the future very positive, and I am happy we have the footballer George Hirst.

“Every good player I like to play for us, to try and make us stronger.”

While Hirst is unproven at first-team level he is arguably the most exciting talent to emerge from Hillsborough’s youth system in several decades.

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He netted two hat-tricks last summer for England Under-19s, against Cuba and Poland, and was named in the team of the competition at the 2017 Toulon Tournament.

If Hirst did leave in the summer – Leeds United, Everton and Leicester City have all been linked with the striker – Wednesday would receive compensation due to his age.

Asked whether Hirst will stay at the club, Luhukay replied: “I cannot say that. There are always two parts. You have the part from the club and the part of the player.

“If the interests of both together, we are very happy.

“We must have patience for there to be a good solution.”

Such is Wednesday’s lack of options in attack, the Owls did not have a single recognised striker in their starting XI that lost at Millwall on Tuesday evening.

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With Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher, Jordan Rhodes and Fernando Forestieri all ruled out – and Sam Winnall on a season-long loan at Derby County – Luhukay opted to rest Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu.

Asked about his team selection, Luhukay replied: “It’s easy to explain when we have a very intensive programme.

“We play on Saturday against Aston Villa – one of the top teams in the league – Tuesday, Swansea in the FA Cup, Bristol City, and three days later Ipswich Town.

“I must protect my players. The players have played a lot of games, but not every player can play again after three days and give their best performance.

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“That’s why I keep an eye on my players every day in training.

“At this moment we have 16 players who are not available.

“In the next two weeks, we have some tough games and I have to look who can play. I must be very careful.

“It is not normal to have so many players unavailable. It’s a complex problem.”