Dave Jones takes great pride in his work.
The Owls boss is a self-confessed “builder of football clubs”. Sixteen months ago, Jones told this newspaper: “I’ll look at everything to make us better.” At present, the foundations he has tried to lay at first-team level look very unsteady as Wednesday find themselves third-from-bottom in the second-tier of English football.
We are nearly a quarter of the way through the season and Jones has really struggled to consistently select a settled side. Injuries have robbed Jones of key senior players, including Anthony Gardner, Reda Johnson and Lewis Buxton. In Jones’ back five, only Chris Kirkland has constantly figured. He conceded: “We have just chopped and changed our back four due to injuries or whatever. We just need to get that department settled.”
But there is a glimmer of hope for Jones in his quest to rectify their dismal form. Wednesday now appear to possess the spine of a competitive Championship team – Kirkland in between the sticks, Roger Johnson at the back, Stephen McPhail in the middle of the park and Matty Fryatt spearheading their attack. Jones’ two loanees: Roger Johnson and Fryatt, are short of match fitness, having played few matches in the last six months. As is Stephen McPhail, who is on a short-term contract.
Jones said: “Those three have been out for a while so we don’t want to put them through the mill [during the break]. We have to be careful that we don’t over-do it with them. These are all the things that we have to think about and assess.”
The problem is Fryatt, on target in the draw at Brighton and Hove Albion, is set to return to his parent club Hull City after Wednesday’s televised meeting with fellow strugglers Barnsley at the end of the month. The truth is Jones has had to rely heavily on the loan market to plug gaps in his squad. Wednesday’s loan signings, since gaining promotion, include Wickham, Lita, Pugh, Holden, Olofinjana, Howard, Bothroyd, Barkley, Sidibe, Spence, Helan and Rodri. Loans are not a long-term solution to a team’s problems - unless you’re Watford.
Wednesday will need to show some backbone and leadership in their next two outings. Do they possess the characters in the dressing room with the stomach for a fight? Can they battle their way out of trouble? We will soon have our answers.