Tiny steps for Jones in “crazy” Championship

Martin Taylor
Martin Taylor

Dave Jones has revealed his “hatred” of the Championship’s unpredictability - and believes his Sheffield Wednesday side may need a record points tally if they are to survive relegation this season.

The Owls, who host promotion-chasing Crystal Palace at Hillsborough on Saturday, are two points clear of the Championship drop-zone after Tuesday night’s goalless draw at Birmingham City.

Jones’ men, however, are only five points away from Leeds United in 13th - highlighting just how tight the bottom of the league currently is.

“It’s a crazy, crazy division,” Jones smiled.

“I hate it with a passion. The only predictable thing is the unpredictability of it.

“But there is still a lot of football to play, and at the minute it looks like it could be three from 14 teams [to go down].

“But that’s what you want - we have to keep ticking along and picking up points.

“We were disappointed not to get the win at Birmingham, and that shows how far we’ve come as a team.

“Now there’s another tough test on Saturday, against a team looking to get out of the division.”

Jones points to the example of his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers, who haven’t won in ten games and slipped into the bottom three in midweek after losing to Barnsley.

“I was speaking to some people from Wolves after we played them last month, and they never thought they were in any danger,” Jones said.

“They were looking up at the Play-Offs, and now all of a sudden they’re right in the mire.

“And it’s a hard place to get out of - I know, because we’ve been there. Millwall have been sucked in, Huddersfield have been sucked in, and Bolton aren’t far away either.

“I think it’ll take more than 50 points to survive this season, maybe 52 or 53.

“There’s not a lot between a lot of teams down at the bottom, and one or two might start to get a bit twitchy.”

Only once in the last five seasons has a team been relegated from the Championship with more than 50 points - Leicester City in 2007/08.

For the last two seasons, Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers have survived with 48.

“There’s a big Easter period coming, and it will be tough,” Jones added.

“Milan [Mandaric, chairman] said to me this week that we have some big games coming up, but they’re all big games in this division: we’ve still got to play Palace, Leicester and Cardiff.

“But there is an air of confidence about us, and we can do some damage on our day.”

Jones also paid tribute to defender Martin Taylor, who was recalled to the side at St Andrews after Anthony Gardner was ruled out with a thigh strain.

The giant defender - nicknamed ‘Tiny’ - has struggled to settle at Hillsborough since joining the club from Watford last year, but delivered a commanding performance alongside Miguel Llera and Jones said: “I’m really pleased for Tiny.

“People have got to remember that he came into a team that wasn’t doing so well in the league, and that’s hard for a player.

“It makes a big difference when the team is playing well. Confidence is now high - there’s a great team spirit, and the lads believe they’re not going to lose, which is good.

“When there’s a confidence in the team, players will help you out a bit more instead of just going out for themselves.

“But earlier in the season, we were playing OK and still losing, and people tend to get blamed when that happens.

“Tiny got a little bit of that, but he stood up well at Birmingham when he was called upon and that just shows the character of the guy.”

Meanwhile Gardner, who hopes to be fit for Saturday’s clash against his previous club Palace, has revealed the change in atmosphere around Hillsborough after Wednesday’s upturn in fortunes.

A run of six league games without defeat has led to renewed optimism that the Owls can survive in the second tier of English football, and Gardner said: “You can see the difference around the place, win a few games and it becomes a lot happier.

“No-one likes losing games, of course, and coming in after a run of defeats is never a nice feeling.

“But Hillsborough now is a better place to be - and we have to keep our good run going.

“Hopefully then we can pull teams back down, and then you never know where a run of wins might take you.

“It’s important to keep looking up, and keep thinking positively.”

Gardner has also hailed the impact of loan stars Leroy Lita and Connor Wickham, signed temporarily from Swansea City and Sunderland respectively.

“Leroy and Connor are quality players,” Gardner said.

“They have knowledge and experience of the league above, and they have the quality that we need.

“They’ve fitted in personality-wise around the place, too - the training ground is your place of work every day, so you want your environment to be a competitive one, but a friendly and happy one as well.

“They’re going to be big players for us.”

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