Dave Jones is keeping an open mind and promising all his players a fair crack of the whip as he plots the next stage of his Hillsborough reign.
Despite the biggest win of the season, 4-1 against Bury, the Owls manager says that nothing is set in stone and that competiton for places is essential.
“What I saw on Saturday (in the 0-0 draw at Rochdale), I assessed it and thought one or two changes would benefit us but, with the lads I put in, I’m not sure what performance I’m going to get from them, because, as I said, I’m only putting round pegs in round holes; that’s what I needed to do.
“Now, looking at the players again in training, I might change it again; there’s nothing concrete in my mind; every player has an opportunity to stake his claim. That’s important.
“As the players get to know me, they’ll realise every player in the club, week in, week out, will always get an opportunity.
“As soon as they come through the doors, step out on to that training pitch, it’s business; they’ve got to prove to me that
they’re worthy of being here just as much as they are worthy of being in the team.”
But broadly speaking the new manager will want the team to carry on the good work from last Tuesday, and it seems likely that on this occasion he will pick the same side.
Jones believes that when players are not in the 11 they still have a crucial role to fulfil.
He also will not hesitate to try to bring in new players if he deems it necessary.
He explains: “If you ask players, they want competition. It brings a healthy situation where you’re put under pressure. I said to the players that when they’re not playing, they’re just as important as the ones who are.
“If they’re putting players who have the shirts under im-
mense pressure, they’re doing their jobs, and if those in the team flag and they get their opportunity then they have to stake their claim.”
But he has been pleased with the response of the squad.
“I’ve been been very impressed with the mentality and willingness to learn,” he said. “There’s great camaraderie here; that’s good.
“When you go to a new club, usually they’re at the other end of the table, confidence is low and you
have to build it up bit by bit.Here, confidence should be high, so you can move on to the next stage.
“It’s always nice to start at home with a victory; the lads responded really well. It’s a case of keeping it going, adding a bit more.”
Jones believes that goals for the strikers will have given them a shot in the arm.
Gary Madine’s against Bury, his 13th of the season, was only his second since his equaliser in the Bramall Lane derby in October.
Fans were impressed with Madine’s form on Tuesday, an improvement on recent weeks - but, as the new manager has only just arrived, he does not have the same sort of yardstick by which to judge him.
Jones said: “I haven’t seen Gary out of form, so I don’t know whether that’s him playing better than he has done, or is there a lot more?
“I would expect the players here to give a lot more than they have, because I don’t set the standard, they do.
“When they set a standard and you say it’s good then I’ll want more from them than that. All I do is to to try to get more from them.”
Reda Johnson returned to training yesterday after missing two games with a ham
string niggle. If he is not ready for tomorrow, he should be fit for the trip to Notts County the following Saturday.
Nicky Weaver has also been back at Middlewood after losing his bench spot to Arron Jameson owing to illness.
But a bug has claimed new coach Terry Burton: he was confined to bed yesterday and the Owls do not want the ailment to spread to the players.
Jones, like Gary Megson before him, expects teams to relish the occasion at Hillsborough:
“We want the same result and same performance as on Tuesday. Bournemouth are a decent side. Teams will see the stadium and pitch and want to put on a show. We have to compete with that. I need brave players to play here and do what I want.”
Teams and ref
OWLS (possible): Bywater, Buxton, Batth, R Jones, Bennett, Antonio, Semedo, Lines, M Jones, Lowe, Madine (4-4-2).
CHERRIES (possible): Flahavan, Francis, Cook, Addison, Daniels, Fogden, MacDonald, Arter, Malone, McDermott, Thomas (4-4-1-1).
James Adcock (Notts). Near the end of Scunthorpe’s 2-1 win at Oldham on Tuesday, he sent off the Latics’ Keanu Marsh-Brown for a two-footed tackle, and booked victim Josh Walker for his reaction - his second yellow card, so he too departed.