Sheffield – When Sean Fusire’s dad answered the phone to his son on Monday from Sheffield Wednesday’s training ground, he probably didn’t expect what he was about to be told.
The 17-year-old Zimbabwean teenager signed his first professional contract last year, and has spent plenty of time with the Owls’ first team under Darren Moore following some fine performances in the FA Youth Cup – but a start for the senior team seemed like something that was a bit further down the line.
Moore, however, thought differently. And Fusire wasn’t about to pass up on the chance to make the big step up in the FA Cup.
“He asked if I’d like a slice of the cake,” the teenager recalled with a smile. And I said I was raring to go!”
There wasn’t much notice, finding out he was starting the night before the game, but he says that timing isn’t an issue – he’s just pleased to have been given an opportunity to play for his boyhood club, with whom he’s been since the age of nine.
“Whether it was days ago or today I’d have approached it the same way – it was my debut, at a club that I love, and the priority no matter the level is to do our best and try to win.
“It was an unbelievable moment. I’ve been at Wednesday a long time now, and it’s something that I’ve dreamed of since I’ve been here. I’m happy that the gaffer put his trust in me, and I hope that I repaid him.
“My family were buzzing, I called my dad from the training ground and he just went crazy. Straight away he was looking to book tickets, and I’m happy that they were able to make it to watch me get quite a few minutes under my belt.
“Hopefully I can keep providing moments like this for them to enjoy, that’s my aim. I do it for myself, but also my people around me… I dedicate everything I do to people like my dad, because every step I’ve been through he’s been there.”
It’s just the start, of course. One senior appearance does not a footballer make, but the youngster speaks with a confidence beyond his years, and at no point in the 1-0 defeat to Fleetwood Town look out of place on the field.
The same can be said for the towering Adam Alimi-Adetoro, who didn’t start but came on for his Owls debut, the 20-year-old cutting an imposing figure as he took to the field in the second half to try and nullify the threat of Promise Omochere. And he coped well.
Moore has spoken passionately about his desire for more Liam Palmers and Cameron Dawsons coming through at Hillsborough under his charge, and Fusire says that it’s important to take on board what he says – as well as the players around him.
“The manager has told me what he expects, he wants to see me up with the seniors as often as possible, but also taking this mentality down with me into the U18s and U21s. It’s a nice feeling, but I need to try and avoid complacency. I enjoy tonight, but tomorrow need to be ready to go again…
“And having those people around you to support you, helps too. Ever since the first day the seniors have been really nice to me – they come and speak to me often, and I’m starting to interact with them more. The same way that I need to have trust in them, they need to be able to put their trust in me. So I need to work hard to show that I’m worthy of playing up here with them. In return, they look after me.”
Fusire is clearly level-headed, and his composure on the field was clear to see as he wasted no time in showcasing the sort of ability that has seen him seamlessly shift from right back, to central midfield and then right wingback. He’s got strings to his bow, and feels happy to draw back on any of them.
Despite all that, though, nerves are normal. And he admits that he had a few as soon as he found out he was being thrown into the deep end.
“Right from yesterday I felt nerves if I’m honest,” he told The Star. “But if it’s your passion then you have to find a way to turn nerves into a positive thing… Every little thing you do in the game reminds you that it is just a game of football, whether it’s the U18s, U21s or first team – you start to settle into it more.”
His manager called him ‘tenacious’, and said ‘his work on the ball was good and on the ball he brought a calmness, his passes were easy but effective’ – he also noted that he’d been consistently impressed with him.
The next step is to build on that, and make sure that his appearance at Highbury is the first of many. After all, there haven’t been many 17-year-olds who have made their Owls debut so early.
It’ll be for nought if the next steps aren’t taken, though, but with Fusire he’s got the demeanour, ability and mentality of a young player who not only has the talent to make a name for himself, but the mindset to make it happen.
And with Moore in charge, he’s got every chance of doing so.