Midfielder Kieran Lee has paid tribute to Sheffield Wednesday caretaker manager Stuart Gray, revealing: ‘He has made us believe again.’
Gray is set to take charge of his eleventh game as Wednesday’s temporary manager this weekend, when the Owls travel to second-placed Burnley.
The former Southampton and Northampton Town boss has made the most of his opportunity, leading Wednesday to five wins and three draws in his ten games in charge so far.
His predecessor, Dave Jones, was sacked as Wednesday had won just one in their first 16 league matches.
“Stu has brought the belief back,” Lee, enjoying something of a renaissance of his own in a central midfield role, said.
“Everyone here is playing with freedom now.
“He hasn’t done anything in particular - he’s brought a couple of players back, and he’s changed the team a little bit, but the confidence has come with our results.
“Every player and every manager is different in their own way, and Stu has got the players believing in themselves again.
“I don’t think that belief was there before.
“I think all the fans are behind Stuart; we don’t know what’s going to happen, but he has got everyone playing well and the results have improved.
“So we will see what happens.”
Gray underlined his credentials for the permanent job by masterminding Wednesday’s biggest ever victory over Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, a 6-0 win last weekend.
The Owls followed up that result with four more goals in their FA Cup third round replay win over Macclesfield Town on Tuesday evening.
And, ahead of their trip to promotion-chasing Burnley, Lee has joined the growing chorus of Owls players backing Gray for the job.
“Everyone who has been asked about it, have said that they would love Stu to get the job,” Lee continued.
“But we are not the ones who decide that, and I don’t know what will happen next.
“But the performances have improved, and credit for that must go to both Stu and the lads.
“Everyone is working hard for each other, which maybe wasn’t happening before.
“I can’t put my finger on exactly what he’s done to change the mood. Maybe it’s his presence around the place - people have always felt comfortable speaking to him.
“He is lively, he brings enthusiasm to the boys and we all love playing for him.”
Captain Reda Johnson is a doubt for the trip to Turf Moor with a groin injury.
But Caolan Lavery and Connor Wickham, who were both ineligible for Wednesday’s cup win over Macclesfield, will be available again, while new signing Oguchi Onyewu, the American centre half, could make his debut alongside Glenn Loovens.
If he does, he will be tasked with stopping one of the league’s deadliest strike forces, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, who have 16 and 11 goals respectively this season.
“Of course, it will be a tough game at Burnley,” Lee added, “but our performances have been good and we have been on a high recently, so it should be a good game.
“We will go into the game with an attitude of, ‘we have nothing to lose’.
“We will go there and see what happens.
“They are flying near the top of the league, but we will go into that game believing we can win it.”