Brave Dave not feeling the heat

editorial image

Face etched with frustration, his words are defiant and brave, laced with the experience of being a successful Championship manager.

It would be easy for Dave Jones to fear becoming a victim of his own success after winning promotion against the odds. He doesn’t.

And only natural if Sheffield Wednesday’s boss felt some personal pressure building after only two wins in 14 matches bringing 10 defeats. He maintains that he doesn’t.

Jones brushed both questions aside when I interviewed him after the better team - his - lost to an aberrational own goal at Nottingham Forest last weekend.

There is a logical reason for that. Generally Wednesday aren’t playing like a relegation side.

“We’re not out of our depth in this league,” Jones insists, having felt the Owls were just a chance-taker away from “putting Forest to the sword.”

Logic also says the current run cannot go on indefinitely without a rolling head. Owner Milan Mandaric continues to exercise a degree of patience that this passionate and restless man has not been credited with in the past.

Will it stretch beyond a batch of fixtures bringing three of the next four at home unless there is a win or two?

Yet all the signs are that Jones’ side - and it is very much his now - are tantalisingly close to gaining a foothold in the Championship. As close as some might consider him to be from the sack. It is that fine a line.

If Mandaric didn’t think patience would be rewarded the axe would surely have fallen by now, albeit that you can only think it might be about to hover if results don’t pick up soon.

On the debit side for Jones, some of his signings are yet to come off. Chris Maguire (injured), Rodri (benched after a brilliant start) and Jay Bothroyd (fitful after being seemingly caught in a tactical no-man’s land) have fallen short so far. Ditto with defensive recruits Martin Taylor and Joe Mattock.

But Anthony Gardner is now looking a kingpin centre back, the new departed Ross Barkley proved a quality midfield capture from Everton, Rhys McCabe and Paul Corry are a richly promising pair and Danny Mayor is clearly a blossoming talent.

No-one is thrashing Jones’ embryo team. The problem is their own lack of end product over which a return to 4-4-2, or at least getting Bothroyd into the box more often as he did at Forest, might be under consideration.

One way or another, Wednesday are going to have to tilt the balance back in favour of themselves and their manager by making their own luck. If they do - and do it soon - then this is a season from which there should still be little to fear.

Home comfort for well-placed Blades

Anyone who traipsed home from Bramall Lane with a half-empty glass after Tuesday’s frothing 3-3 draw with Crewe will have checked the other results by now.

How many home wins would you expect from a full programme in any league? Well, there were four out of a curtailed 10-match programme in League Two in midweek, which seems about par for the course.

Now check out the full 12-game quota in League One. Not a single home victory. Remarkable as that may be, it seems to say something about a tightly packed section in which no one team, unlike last season, stands out.

Sheffield United have as good a chance of being that side as any, for all the shortcomings they displayed in failing to put away talented but vulnerable opposition.

There was certainly a lack of cohesion in the way they surrendered a two-goal lead, slipped behind and then couldn’t find the authority to capitalise on a swift equaliser from Nick Blackman, albeit that an apparent foul on him might have produced a winning penalty.

But amid some disruption to normal service at the back, the Blades have finally found a goal threat with Shaun Miller a bustling figure up front and Blackman a marauding threat in a new role on the right.

No ground was lost and, now that the faithful are more accepting of the margins being slim, you can’t put a value on being in the top two at this stage.

Chelsea’s claims wide of the Mark?

You have to go with your gut on whether Mark Clattenburg racially abused a player in his charge.

The FA’s verdict is still awaited - but I will be amazed if we are not talking about a deeply wronged referee in the aftermath. Clattenburg has said nothing throughout his ordeal. So who’s out there standing up for him?

Embarrassingly for his immediate boss, it’s been left to two high-profile managers to speak in Clattenburg’s defence, both boldly declaring they simply didn’t believe Chelsea’s “racist remark” charge against the top Premier League official.

That their names were, first, Neil Warnock and then Sir Alex Ferguson - neither renowned for giving referees the benefit of the doubt - should deepen the shade of red on some faces. He’s backed by his union, of course. But where was referees’ manager Mike Riley when the biggest storm ever to engulf a referee first broke? He was holidaying in America, apparently.

Subsequently, the only comment from Riley has been to explain why Clattenburg had been stood down in the interim, a contentious enough state of affairs in itself considering I don’t recall John Terry missing games throughout a protracted affair than ended him being punished for making racist comments to Anton Ferdinand.

From the backlash in the referee’s favour, his likely innocence has been believed by millions of people who’ve never even met him.

Was it really too much to ask his employers to make a moral stand on his behalf with a public utterance of faith?

Hopefully they will be more visible when it comes to regaining the match fees wrongly denied Clattenburg and the possibility of a damages claim after an episode that brings more shame on his accusers.

Unfortunately, Chelsea are not entirely alone.