Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday column: Changing one person is not a cure-all

Leave Jos Luhukay out of the equation for a moment. You can change the manager. The fact is Sheffield Wednesday's squad has to change also '“ whoever is boss.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 14:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 14:55 pm
Owls Manager Jos Luhukay

And the same would apply to a vastly experienced one of Championship pedigree. Steve Bruce, for instance.

Bruce '“ as suggested here last week '“ IS, I understand, the target of soundings via a third party.

Would he be interested in the event of a change? I am satisfied he would be; also aware he was struck by the Owls incredible support at Wembley when his Hull side won the 2016 play-off final.

It could well develop, albeit other candidates will be under review and the former Aston Villa boss might wish to enjoy a rare Christmas with his family first. That's where the timing is on a knifedge.

Asking fans to dip into almost empty reserves of patience seems futile.

Yet it is in everyone's interests for under-fire Luhukay to arrest the slide '“ with longer-term contingencies clearly being formulated if necessary. Some might think the owner is just sitting back accepting the situation. I can categorically assure them that is not the case.

Bruce's early management venture with Sheffield United is a tribal irrelevance. He has won promotion to the Premier League four times, twice each with Birmingham and Hull, and took Villa to the play-offs last season. His credentials are impeccable along with the respect he would command in any dressing room.

That's where a Wednesday shake-up is long overdue, dating to the summer of 2017. The only way that can happen is players going out, something all too infrequent compared to arrivals.

Of the latter, there have been only three in the beleaguered Luhukay's reign, two of them loans.

Of departures, only three have been notable '“ Ross Wallace, Glenn Loovens and Jack Hunt (none of whom have been effectively replaced), the latter for the rarity of a fee.

More of both are needed to revive a tired-looking, lacklustre squad. And there are times when the only offer you get is the best that you can get.

The grapevine has it, for instance, that last summer Wednesday had opportunities to part with Keiren Westwood and David Jones. Of which more later.

First, Luhukay. One win in nine matches and performances of recent level are, in tandem, indefensible.

The Owls were fortunate to draw 2-2 last Saturday with Rotherham, a team costing relative peanuts but a functioning TEAM for all that.

Having been reliant on spectacular individual goals from Adam Reach and Barry Bannan in early season, Luhukay leaned here on a brilliant brace from Lucas Joao.

The margins are fine in that given six or seven more points the sacking question ought not to be asked. This is not a top six outfit. But current standards won't do.

Where I feel Luhukay has a case in his defence is in asserting to me that the squad is virtually the same as the one he inherited.

He pointed to the league position being almost identical to when he arrived in January, saying: 'Only the manager has changed. I'm very realistic and try to do my work the best I can. But the team is the same and the players are the same.'

More outgoings were needed to change that situation amid FFP issues. Were there possibilities?

Sources outside Hillsborough have suggested for some time that a Premier League club (Cardiff) tabled around £3m for frozen-out goalkeeper Westwood last summer. Wednesday are said to have asked for up to £6m. Plainly hugely unrealistic if they did.

Westwood has become, controversially, a big earner on the sidelines at 34. He's linked with Leeds but the Owls would do well to get any kind of January fee offer '“ only, at best, an approach to take over Westwood's wages on loan.

Midfielder Jones, too, is said to have been wanted on loan by a Championship outfit (Bolton). Again, no deal, for whatever reason.

He, too, is treading water. As are Wednesday.

There will be no queue for either player, or others on the fringe, in January. Only for the ones you'd rather keep.

But at least there are three, rather than two, likely to attract big offers after Joao's brace taking him to eight goals for the season. He, Reach and Bannan are all marketable.

You'd want to keep all three but at least one may have to go.

Those are the ones to be picky over on offers made, not those for offloading.

In fairness, though, Wednesday did well in driving a hard bargain for Jordan Rhodes' loan at Norwich City.

Fernando Forestieri would also have been on the coveted list but another injury, diminishing a value once as high as a supposedly rejected £13m bid and ruling him out until the New Year, might discount that.

Keeping players is admirable if a club is healthy and firing. Even then, trading is an intrinsic and normal part of the game at all levels, even for the wealthiest.

When a club is not performing on the field, it is the only solution.

So the the management issue is far from the only one. Anyone in charge would have to face the same reality.

Changing one person '“ even to someone of Bruce's stature '“ cannot be the single simple answer.

And if that one person were to be central to the solution then I feel he, as the professional, would need a strong handle on the situation '“ or rely on a level of football expertise not currently evident in the running of the club.