SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Early-season Owls take a break from injury concern

Free weekends: Dave Jones is looking forward to two blank Saturdays
Free weekends: Dave Jones is looking forward to two blank Saturdays

DAVE Jones is looking forward to taking an early-season break.

His Wednesday team will be without games on two early-season Saturdays because of international fixtures.

The Owls boss welcomes the arrangement, which accompanies Championship status, not because he wants a rest but because he feels too crowded a programme in the early weeks of a season carries a risk of injuries.

He explained: “You seem to pick up injuries in the early part of the season when players are just getting back into it and there are a lot of games in a short space of time.

“Having a bit more space in between games can only help to prevent that.”

It also means that if any players are picked for internationals they should not miss club games.

Wednesday have suffered from club-and-country clashes in the past. For example, Reda Johnson missed last October’s Hillsborough derby against Chesterfield because he was away with Benin.

Jones also welcomes the fact that the Owls will not be playing in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy or the first two rounds of the FA Cup, in which they enter in the third round, after Christmas.

The official announcement of the warm-up friendly against Sporting Lisbon - a pairing first unveiled in The Star recently - completes the programme for pre-season.

During their week’s stay in Portugal, the Owls will play Sporting on Sunday, July 22, and Reading two days later.

Both games will take place at the municipal stadium in the Algarve resort of Albufeira - the home of local club Imortal - and will kick off provisionally at 8pm.

The other friendlies are at Stocksbridge and Sheffield FC, both on July 17, at Doncaster on July 28, at home to West Brom on August 4, and away to Kilmarnock on August 8.

There are question marks over the home League dates of Tuesday, September 18, against Huddersfield and Saturday, February 2, against Brighton, as Sheffield United are due to be at home on the same days and the clubs will want to avoid a clash.

The Owls have thanked their fans, with season-ticket sales up by 48 per cent on the same period last year, and 24 per cent are new buyers.

The club have not released an official figure but it is believed that around 15,000 tickets have been sold so far.