Tricky Sheffield Wednesday starlet Joey Phuthi opens up as he eyes big breakthrough

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Joey Phuthi

At one point it looked like Joey Phuthi might not be a Sheffield Wednesday player at all this season.

The talented teen has been with the Owls since the age of 12, rising up through the youth ranks at Middlewood Road in pursuit of a first team spot, but over the summer there were concerns that he might be snapped up elsewhere.

Wednesday managed to keep hold of the 19-year-old in the end, though, and now he’s looking to take the next step in his young career after a few months that he’ll never forget.

“It’s been a dream come true for me,” he told The Star not long after returning from his first international camp with Zimbabwe.

“I’ve always wanted it ever since I was a kid, so I’m so happy to be experiencing it, and I’m happy with my football right now. I feel good, and hopefully it can be more of the same next season and I can keep improving.”

In December he was rewarded for his work in the academy with his senior debut for the Owls, Danny Röhl bringing him on from the bench in the game against Coventry City, and his quick feet and trickery led to him being picked up by the Warriors for a Four Nations tournament in Malawi a couple of months’ later.

“It was a good experience for me,” he said of his time with Norman Mapeza and his team.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of since I was young. I really enjoyed it, the boys over there were really nice, and even though I only got a few minutes the manager has said to me that it’s just the start and I have to keep working forward.

“I’m hoping to be at the June World Cup qualifiers in South Africa, that’s my aim, and I need to keep performing. There are some top players in there, but I need to keep backing myself and try to get in that squad.”

Joey Phuti

The teen is nowhere near the finished product, and plenty of talk goes on between him and his coaches about his defensive output and work off the ball, but going forward he looks a real threat – and he says he doesn’t fear any fullback.

He went on to say, “I just need to keep working on my end product and stuff like that – as Andy (Holdsworth, U21s manager) always says – we’ll get there… Every single game Favour (Onukwuli) and I are confident against whatever fullback we play against, I never look at my opposition fullback and feel like he’s going to get the better of me, I’ll always try and get at them whether it’s in the first team, with the U21s or when I was in the U18s. That’s always been my game.

“I’m targeting to be back with the first team in preseason, and both Steve (Haslam) and Andy have said that I need to start really trying to impact the seniors. We sometimes joke about my out of possession work, but it’s something that I’ll be really trying to work on in the summer and hopefully it can be less of an issue and I can start to affect the first team.”

That’s then, though, and before that there’s a very real chance of a top two finish in the Professional Development League and a spot in the play-offs.

Victory over Wigan Athletic on Tuesday – including a Phuthi assist for the opener – took them top briefly, but they’re going to need to finish strong if they’re to see pip either Birmingham City or Sheffield United to the post.

They still have to play the latter, and Wednesday’s first ever Zimbabwean international is hoping for the best. “We’ve won our past three games,” he said with a smile.

“We’re backing ourselves and we’ve got Sheffield United later in the month. Hopefully we can cause them to lose some momentum by beating them.”

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