Jermaine Johnson is nearing a comeback in a major boost for Sheffield Wednesday’s hopes of accelerating their solid start to the season.
The Jamaican winger’s return to training is imminent following the knee surgery that has delayed his start to the season.
And that is timely for manager Gary Megson, keen to restore a proven matchwinner to his side amid the injury woes of new strikers Chris O’Grady and Ryan Lowe, who hobbled off on his debut in Monday’s dogged 1-1 draw at Charlton.
Megson’s assistant Chris Evans told the Telegraph: “It was a huge disappointment to lose JJ. But he got a good base in pre-season when he did a terrific amount of work and never pulled out of anything.
“He’s a big player for us. Give him the ball and he makes things happen, gets backsides off seats and puts the opposition on the back foot.
“JJ is now quite close to training again. We’re keen to get him back up for selection.”
The Owls’ management, preparing for Saturday’s visit of leaders MK Dons, believe a Johnson return would give the team pitch-wide thrust after the tasty impact of on-loan winger Ben Marshall.
Evans added: “JJ coming back would give us good balance - we could play one on either side. Ben has shown since coming from Stoke that he’s technically a Premier League player. He has a trick up his sleeve and can deliver a quality cross.”
Wednesday’s ninth place, outside the top six only on goal difference, is healthy considering they have had to integrate a new team and battle injuries, including the ominous Nicky Weaver absence that has given a chance to his impressive goalkeeping understudy Richard O’Donnell. It is a platform from which both Megson and chairman Milan Mandaric have made no secret of their desire to strengthen further. “It’s not a case of talking about problems, it’s about finding solutions,” said Evans. “We’re in the business of signing the best possible players for Sheffield Wednesday. If we feel there’s a loan opportunity to create competition in certain positions then we’ll do it.
“You need an ability to rotate. And it’s up to those in the shirt to put down a marker, as I feel we did in the second half at Charlton in drawing with a very good side who signed a lot of players in the summer.”
Megson’s short, sharp and probably heated intervention at half-time proved a turning point at the Valley, leading to substitute Clinton Morrison’s equaliser.
“The manager had the opportunity to lay down some pointers,” said Evans. “Gary’s good at that - very knowledgeable and experienced and also incredibly passionate. Our supporters had travelled a long way and we needed to respond. Gary’s message was to dig in and that we owed it to ourselves not to lie down.”
n A book charting the history of the Owls was launched at Hillsborough last night. “Sheffield Wednesday: The Complete Record”, by fans John Brodie and Jason Dickinson, is already a best-seller among books of its type. It is available at the Owls megastore, priced £25.