Megson insists standards must reach new peak

Up, up, up is the demand of one football manager with the proverbial mountain to climb, writes Alan Biggs.

Gary Megson gazed at the impressive peaks surrounding Sheffield Wednesday’s Austrian training base and counted on two big positives ahead of the new season.

One is that Wednesday were there at all - in an area popularly used by Premier League clubs - and another is that his players responded to their surroundings in the way he demanded.

“We’ve got to get our standards up and I don’t just mean the players,” he says. “There are standards here which are not acceptable.”

Megson’s only concern is significant, however. It is that time is running out on filling the biggest void in his squad, the much-needed acquisition of a proven goalscorer.

And the dragging-on of the Neil Mellor affair has created a stick-or-twist dilemma for the Owls boss, who wants Rochdale’s Chris O’Grady if he can’t bring back his 20-goal loan star from Preston.

But Megson is loathe to set a deadline on the Mellor deal because that remains his number one choice. “We want the lad here, so we don’t want to put an end on it,” he insists.

“He wants to come, the fans want him, everybody wants it. We’ve got to make it happen. But the worry I’ve got is that while we’re waiting, some other preferred targets will move on and we’ll end up with the dregs.”

Wednesday’s business so far has been carefully weighted. . . five players out (Paul Heffernan, Darren Potter, Gary Teale, Tommy Spurr and Michael Morrison), four players in (David Prutton, Rob Jones, Julian Bennett, Jose Semedo).

One more, a striker, will balance things up, though pacy wide players remain an extra priority.

But the bulk of the squad is shaping up - in more ways than one. “The lads are working well and I’m really pleased, most of all with the quality of effort,” says Megson.

“It’s one thing trying and another being good at it. One or two players have still to shape up, but in the main I’m happy.

“The running is tapering down now. We started with longer distances in Austria. There was an eight kilometre run round a lake, for instance. And the weather was boiling that day.

“Then they moved on to the shorter stuff - lots of 1500 and 1000 metre runs. The distances get shorter as we get closer to the season.

“We trained morning and afternoon in Austria and used the facilities in the hotel, which are first class. Stoke were there, too, and I caught up with their manager Tony Pulis. As good as our hotel was, theirs was in an entirely different world! That sets an example of the sort of standards we have to aim for.”