Gary Madine is nearing a comeback for Sheffield Wednesday - and even has an outside chance of a shock return in Saturday’s big game at Hillsborough.
Whether he plays or not, Madine’s fitness is a further huge morale booster for the in-form Owls ahead of facing League One leaders Charlton.
Timely, too, in that it helps to balance the turnaround over Ben Marshall who - says manager Gary Megson - is heading into his last game for the club barring a sudden breakthrough in the winger’s contract stalemate with Stoke.
There is truth in reports that promotion rivals Huddersfield have bid £500,000 for Marshall and it would be surprising if there was not other interest in a rising star of the game, whose quality has been honed at Hillsborough.
Whether Wednesday will compete in the bidding remains a matter of some doubt, even though Marshall has become arguably the most influential matchwinner at the club.
But Madine can again contest that mantle, having grabbed 11 goals up to suffering a broken toe in the 2-1 win at Tranmere on November 19th.
Megson told the Telegraph: “Gary is close now. This game might be a bit too early. But he’s back in training and there’s a possibility of some involvement this weekend. We’ll see how he is.”
Successful combinations of Chris O’Grady, Ryan Lowe and Clinton Morrison signify no undue pressure to chuck Madine back into the starting line-up. But his presence on the bench would be a major motivating force, not least for the club’s other strikers who include Arsenal loanee Sanchez Watt.
Elsewhere, the window is forever opening and shutting on the Owls management, who have signed Blackpool defender Miguel Llera but have seen James Tavernier recalled by Newcastle.
Freeing up wages from fringe players is set to see Mark Beevers loaned to Chesterfield, who are competing with Colchester for the defender. Giles Coke and Daniel Jones are among others with the same question mark. Jermaine Johnson might yet be among them but after a stirring display in the FA Cup win over West Ham and with Marshall’s future in so much doubt, the Jamaican could get a further chance to shine.
Megson is less than hopeful over the Stoke impasse, saying: “I’ve spoken to Tony (Pulis) and Ben has been made an offer. It seems Ben’s representative wants a different sum, so at the moment it’s a no-go.
“Unfortunately, at this stage, Ben is approaching his last game for the club.”
Megson has confirmed his admiration for Gary Roberts in continuing to covet the Huddersfield winger but a deal remains politically difficult. Big-spending leaders Charlton arrive five points clear of Wednesday in third but Megson’s side have risen to the challenge of pegging back others in the race. “It’s a huge game for us,” said the Owls boss. “Charlton are having a great season, as they should be considering the quality they have brought in.” Danny Haynes, the latest, may have signed from Barnsley in time for the game. Megson went on: “We tried ourselves to sign Danny Green and he’s top drawer, one we’ll definitely have to watch out for.”
Green has vindicated Megson’s judgment in the same way that his persistence in signing Jose Semedo - from Charlton - paid off by landing Wednesday a supreme midfield anchorman.
“It’s obvious now to everybody why I wasn’t prepared to move on from Jose and waited the best part of three months to sign him,” added the Owls boss. “He’s been brilliant for us - it had to be done.
“I can’t imagine Jose has any ill feeling for Charlton, either.
“They wanted to keep him and off the field he’s one of the nicest guys in football.”
Megson foresees a “tight game” between teams of similar strengths. “They get the ball forward quickly and I know all the stats which show they are very similar to us in nearly every aspect,” he said.
“In terms of promotion, Charlton are running away with things. A lot can happen, though, and this January window is vital for all concerned.
“I’m having to do things that are normally only done in May and June, extend contracts etc. It’s been an eye-opener.”