Sheffield Wednesday: Owls line up Slovenia friendly

Gary Madine can make it in the Championship, says Stuart Gray
Gary Madine can make it in the Championship, says Stuart Gray

Stuart Gray has confirmed that the Owls are to visit Slovenia as part of their pre-season preparation.

There will be one game, which has yet to be finalised, and the players will train in the southern European state from July 19 to 24.

Wednesday’s manager also confirmed that friendlies at York and Bury have been lined up and it is hoped that there will be a Hillsborough game against a big club.

Gray hopes to have completely overhauled his squad by the time pre-season training starts on July 1 but is also aware that this may not be possible. He has also spelled out again the challenge facing Gary Madine, who is on course to rejoin the fold at the start of pre-season after his loan spell at Carlisle.

“He needed to go out and get some games and some sharpness,” said the Owls chief. “He’s scored two goals in five games. He’s got to come back on July 1 as a Sheffield Wednesday player, compete with Atdhe Nuhiu, Chris Maguire and Caolan Lavery and try to force his way into the team.

“The only way he can do that is by training hard, training well and playing well.”

Gray thinks that the striker can make the Championship grade: “I’ve seen a lot of him, finishing wise; he’s one of our better finishers; he doesn’t snatch at things; he passes the ball into the net.

“He knows how to get in front of defenders and he can head the ball.

“We haven’t had him for a big length of time. He’ll be like a new signing. But it’s down to what Gary does on the pitch.”

Madine’s return will also make no difference to Gray’s desire to bring in a striker who can score 20 goals a season - but he knows he is not alone in that aim.

“There will probably be 91 other head coaches or managers thinking the same thing.

“It’s going to be down to finances and the budget. It’s the same at other clubs. There are big decisions to be made.

“We have our targets and hopefully we can get those targets in.”

Gray is not saying how many players he wants to sign but ideally he intends to strengthen all departments and he would like to have two players for every position.

He is also not ruling out further use of the loan system. Connor Wickham’s agent has rung to thank the club for aiding the striker, who has broken through at Sunderland after the success of his Hillsborough loan.