DAVE Jones will urge his team to play without fear when they seek a first win in nine games in the white-hot atmosphere of a Yorkshire derby against Leeds tonight.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager insists that Hillsborough with a crowd of around 30,000 and a national TV audience will be no place for faint hearts.
But he is confident that if the Owls replicate the attitude and work that they have been showing in training then they could be approaching a turning point in their season.
“I want our players to express themselves,” he said.
“We haven’t got to be frightened - if you make a mistake then go and look for the ball again. Sometimes it’s the right decision, just the wrong execution.
“If you stop making the right decision because you’re worried about getting it wrong, you’ll never succeed.”
Jones wants his players to revel in the big occasion. “This sort of game is what you’re in football for: it’s what you strive for,” he said.
“There are players who come to a club like Sheffield Wednesday and can’t handle it - it’s too big a club for them; they’re out of their comfort zone. We haven’t seen that here so far.
“But there are big demands. There will be 30,000 people expecting us to be right.
“It will start off 100 miles an hour, with the buzz of the crowd and the atmosphere. But you need people to put their foot on the ball and pass it. You need all that experience from your older players and hope that will rub off on the younger ones.
“If we can reproduce on the pitch what we have been doing in training, we’ll be happy.
“I think we’ve seen it in spasms in the games - we’re just trying to get it consistently.”
Jones believes that the division is so tight that it will be possible for the Owls to climb quickly from the bottom three.
“You will hit a bad patch; I’d rather hit one now than later on. We’re trying to iron things out. The players have to keep believing, keep trying to do the right things,” he said
Leeds boss Neil Warnock said: “To have the best part of 30,000 there for a Friday night game that’s live on television shows the potential at both clubs. This could quite easily be a Premier League fixture.
“It’s a massive club. When they [Wednesday] have been relegated over the years, the fans have always stuck with them.
“They were getting average crowds of about 21,000 in League
One. Their fans and the Leeds fans are very similar. The atmosphere at places like Hillsborough is why I’m in football. I get stick at most places around the country but it’s always healthy stick at Sheffield Wednesday.
“Hillsborough’s a real football ground and I like going there. I don’t enjoy their band though; they could do with finding a few more records.”
n Owls: P42/43