Sheffield Wednesday: Players told to keep believing

Sam Hutchinson leaps into a challenge in the Derby game
Sam Hutchinson leaps into a challenge in the Derby game

Stuart Gray is urging his players to hold firm and not waver after their two successive defeats.

The Owls coach is backed up by expert opinion in his belief that his team are still on the right lines and Tuesday’s setback against Derby was harsh.

He explained: “Football can be very cruel. You have to keep going, keep believing.

“Could we have been better in front of their goalkeeper? We probably could, The overall performance was quite good without creating any clear-cut chances.

“It’s the final touch, whether it be a cross, a shot or a header; we have to make sure we at least work the goalkeeper; we’re getting into the right areas, but it’s just that final piece that we need to produce.

“People that I trust in the game have said ‘keep going, it will go for you.”

“First and foremost you’ve got to work hard, We’ve got to keep believing, whether it means going to Huddersfield and rolling our sleeves up and digging in again; sometimes you’ve got to grind results out, It will come.”

One of Gray’s major decisions centres on the midfield engine room, with now both Kieran Lee and Jose Semedo on the injured list.

Options for at least two midfield slots, possibly three, depending on whether the formation is 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, include Giles Coke and Gary Gardner, who started against Derby, plus Sam Hutchinson and left winger Jeremy Helan, who has been switched into central midfield during games on a couple of occasions and showed himself capable of playing there.

The club have been awaiting the outcome of a scan on Lee’s hamstring before knowing how long he will be: but he has no chance this weekend, and Semedo’s ankle fracture is set to sideline him for at least another five weeks.

Oguchi Onyewu has swelled the ranks of the centre halves, after joining Lewis Buxton back in full training, but Gray is unlikely to rush them back. He did say, however: “It might be a case of needs must if they’re to be put into the side. They’ll come into my thoughts whether it be Saturday, Monday or the following Saturday.”

Reda Johnson is not yet back in full training.

Gray could well rotate his squad again for the games against Huddersfield tomorrow and Charlton on Monday - but he adds: “You have to get the right balance... three games in six days...people may say Kieran’s hamstring injury might be down to a bit of fatigue.

“He’s played every game, all the 90 minutes; the pitch was a bit sapping as well, with all the rain we’ve had. I always have to have one eye on that.

“But I’ll have 11 players hungry for both games.

“It’s not the team that starts that’s the most important; it’s the team that finishes. In my day it was only one sub; at least I can use three; you can rotate that way as well.”

The Owls are set to reveal next week whether or not Gary Madine will return to the squad at some point..First, they will hold a meeting between the player, Gray, chairman Milan Mandaric and vice-chairman Paul Aldridge, probaby in the days after the Charlton game.

Gray refuses to prejudge any issue though he did have a chat with Madine this week at Armley prison, Leeds.

The striker was released yesterday after serving four months of an 18-month sentence imposed for two separate assaults on fans in Sheffield.

He has another year of his contract remaining, and he is apologetic and remorseful, and looking to don his boots again, says Gray.

The Owls boss again played down the prospect of an FA Cup quarter-final against United awaiting the winners of the Charlton tie.

He said: “When I’m walking down Ecclesall Road and somebody comes up and says ‘all the best on Monday’ I just bat it back and say ‘we’ve got a game on Saturday!’

“People have got to realise we’ve got to beat Charlton yet and we’ve got to get a result at Huddersfield.“Charlton will be thinking what a great opportunity it is for them. What I don’t want to do is overhype it. We’ve got to make we concentrate on the jobs we have to do: we’ve got an important game at Huddersfield.

“Huddersfield are an honest, hard-working bunch of lads. they close you down. They had a great win at Birmingham, where we had them watched.

“Mark (Robins) has got them playing well, they’ll be full of confidence. He’ll be saying to his players ‘let’s see if these boys fancy it; they’ve got a Cup-tie on Monday.’

“It’s a derby. My saying to the players here is: ‘Look, it’s a game we can win; we’ve got to put on a good show. We can’t guarantee the win, but we can guarantee the performance.”