Alan Biggs: Jones shrugs off the pressure

Alan Bigg Telegraph
Alan Bigg Telegraph
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Dave Jones knows supporters can buy you time. His appreciation of the Sheffield Wednesday faithful who have stuck with him is sincere.

If one result turns a season, a threat to the manager is somehow expunged from history.

Officially it never happened. So we will never know for sure whether, as I still suspect, Jones was hovering over the Hillsborough trapdoor last weekend. The Owls boss predictably shrugs off the subject when I raise it with him.

“I’ve never felt any pressure,” he insists. “This is a job I enjoy. When people say it’s pressure then I don’t feel that. I know what I’m capable of doing... I don’t turn into a bad manager overnight.”

It’s a familiar refrain but it’s worth repeating that a significant section of Wednesday’s support have clearly shared Jones’ belief, setting the right mood for a thrilling 5-2 romp over Reading that finally rewarded mounting performance levels.

“People know their football,” says Jones.

“We’ve got a lot of fans who understand the game and who maybe realised there was something growing here.”

His experience leaves him level-headed enough to admit: “Sometimes you just need that bit of luck, but you can also make your own and we’ve stayed positive here. The glass is always more than half full.”

Perhaps the added pointer from the win that sends the Owls to Derby in great spirits, is that – rather than watering down his team’s pace and power – Jones should forsake greater substance and keep going full tilt with 4-4-2; certainly while ever he can retain the prize loan pair of Matty Fryatt and Connor Wickham.

Two wins and three defeats is better than a five match unbeaten run if they are all draws. But more permanence is needed, of course.

Relying on so many loans and short contracts is not ideal. That said, those Premier League strikers were budget-busting additions funded by Milan Mandaric with the aid of a £1.5m loan from ex-West Ham chairman Terry Brown.

Jose puzzle for Clough

Sometimes your most talented player can be the least suited to a team and its tactics. But can you afford not to integrate him?

That’s the dilemma facing Nigel Clough and Sheffield United over Jose Baxter. So far Clough, a 4-4-2 man, has gone in without the youngster who was central to the ideals of predecessor David Weir.

Even though Weir’s methods were seen to fail, Baxter showed enough to demonstrate that he can be a brilliant “in the hole” player, breaking from behind the main striker. His scoring record from that position at Oldham brooks no argument, nor his pedigree as an Everton product who has many admirers.

But can Baxter adapt to another role? Or be accommodated elsewhere? Big questions for Clough. If the answers are no and no, then United could easily get their money - £300,000? – back. Potential buyers might include Baxter’s ex Oldham boss Paul Dickov, now at Doncaster.

Nick gets to the heart of being a champion

Nick Matthew speared the inner secret of sporting success last Sunday night – because all winners have first to beat themselves.

As if becoming world squash champion (for the third time!) wasn’t enough – and it was plenty more than that, of course – Sheffield’s Matthew had the presence of mind to go right to the heart of what separates winners from losers.

Nick’s immediate post-match interview after beating Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in Manchester was almost as remarkable as his cliffhanging 3-2 victory over nearly two hours of action.

His stated awareness of his “first enemy” being himself, his “second enemy” being himself and only his “third enemy” being his opponent was evidence of his iron will in winning “a mental battle”.

Congratulations Nick. Awesome, man.

City’s help for the Eagles

Sheffield has staged a sporting alternative to Help for Heroes – and in context, just as fitting – as the Eagles head back to Dave Allen’s Owlerton Stadium. It matters not for how long. Word of a two-year deal to rehouse the city’s highly successful rugby league club at its former home suggests another move beyond... maybe an eventual return to Don Valley under the post-stadium regeneration plan.

But essentially Sheffield has pulled together in an hour of need. Well done to all concerned.