The Victoria Highlanders have forged a partnership with Sheffield Wednesday, the third most senior professional soccer club in England and one of the oldest in the world.
“Sheffield Wednesday is internationally affiliated with the Victoria Highlanders and the plan is for us to share content, ideas and information regarding their academy and the academy we are about to embark on this fall. So we’re announcing we’re getting into the academy business,” Highlanders PDL head coach Dave Dew said.
“Secondly is, coaching education will go in both directions and possibly players in both directions. They are hoping to run an ID camp to look at potential boys that are passport-eligible to go over and play there.
“We will also look at some of their younger players coming over to play for our PDL team, so they would leave their program as it comes to a close in May to join us for May, June and July and then go back into their system in the fall,” Dew added.
Max Wragg, a former Highlander in 2010-11, and Jamie Hadfield of the Sheffield Wednesday club have spent the last six days in the Victoria area, working clinics.
“We have this vision for starting this academy and sharing information with each other and bouncing information off each other and, hopefully, bringing squads over into Sheffield and squads from our academy into Victoria,” said Wragg.
“We have a really big vision, starting from the bottom with a clean slate and working its way up. It’s an exciting time and we want to make sure we get it right from the start,” said Wragg, who is a coach with the Sheffield Wednesday youth program, primarily the U-11s.
Wragg and Hadfield — who also coaches with the Sheffield academy and is an international development officer — assisted with the Royal Bay Academy in the morning and afternoon on Monday and later in the evening were slated to join the U-17-18 girls and U-17 boys HPL teams. Tuesday morning they were at the Reynolds academy.
“We’ve done some coaching and getting people seeing the brand and the badge,” Wragg said, pointing to the Sheffield Wednesday crest on his chest.
The goal, ultimately, is to have locals play for the storied English club that was founded in 1867.
“There’s actually a kid they’ve seen at Reynolds who they’re keen about bringing in July,” Dew said of 16-year-old Kayden Miner.
It has happened in the past as Reid Fraser ventured across the pond with the Owls. Danny Paton-Cavanagh also travelled over and ended up with Dundee. Brandon Watson, who is a current member of the Highlanders, spent four months with the Sheffield Wednesday program when he was 16.
“It’s an interesting time because they just acquired a kid through another partnership they have in Ontario and they’re bringing a boy over this fall,” said Dew.
“I definitely think it could happen,” said Wragg. “We want to identify areas where other people don’t. There are academies that we need to have a closer look at. If you can get one player over, or two players over, and they can make the cut, would be successful for us, and sharing the same ideas from what we do is good for the kids.”
Sheffield Wednesday’s top team competes in the League Championship, or second division, but is nearing a position of promotion into the English Premiership.
“We certainly hope so. We need a point in the next two games to be guaranteed to be in the playoffs,” said Wragg. “It’s an exciting time at Sheffield Wednesday with new owners, new manager, and expectations are high. The chairman wants to push the club in the right direction so it’s quite exciting.”
The last time the Owls competed in the Premiership was 1999-2000.
CORNER KICKS: The Highlanders announced seven signings this week in midfielders Cam Hundal, Ryan Dillon and Austin Schneebli; strikers Mitchell Papadynetz and Michael North; central defender Callum Montgomery; and last year’s team captain, Alex Redpath.