In Hillsborough’s bleak midwinter, when the reality dawned that Sheffield Wednesday needed to offload, the question was always: “But who could they sell?”
Not “who could they afford to lose?” More a case of “who have they got who would attract bids?”
Every answer seemed to stop at Adam Reach and Barry Bannan. And with the form of that pair dragged down towards the team’s general mediocrity at that time, no-one was sold in January. Which was just as well in the case of that pair.
It will remain everyone’s wish to retain those two, in particular. But with with others having emerged as potentially attractive assets, Wednesday are in stronger health to restructure the squad than they were four months ago.
Credit here to Steve Bruce and players like skipper Tom Lees – and a couple of those poised for new deal offers, Liam Palmer and, of course, the outstanding Keiren Westwood.
With Fernando Forestieri fit again, if not as yet either fully selected or firing, and Lucas Joao flitting in and out from the fringe, the Owls do have genuine talent others might buy. And I think you can add younger ones, including keeper Cameron Dawson, who showed character and ability during the most torrid time of the season when he was exposed to so many errors by others that his own were inevitable.
The key difference will be Bruce and the approach he brings to it. This needs to be from the head and not the heart, as seems to have been the case in the past. In effect, there can’t be a single player who is “not for sale.” By that, I don’t mean wanting to sell anyone in particular.
But there has never been a truer saying in football than “every player has his price” and, after being out of step with that for the last four years, it is the only obvious way clear of the Profitability and Sustainability squeeze.
That requires a different approach, maybe even in some cases to be proactive to trading rather than simply holding tight.
If the “right” offer came in for anyone, I don’t think Bruce would flinch in his advice to the club. His is the professional voice that should be heeded and it wouldn’t be toned down by sentiment.
Whether a Reach or Bannan goes – and I hope not – is entirely down to the size of offer received. Nothing else, barring a request to leave, which is unlikely. Same with Forestieri or Joao, although here valuations are harder to gauge – as opposed to two players consistently on view and doing the business.
Rather than stab at figures, I think we have to trust Bruce to make the right recommendations for the needs of his club. You can only balance the books from players other clubs want, not those you might like to shift.
So – barring the most dramatic of late twists in the dream of the play-offs – it’ll be a summer when nothing is off-limits. A time of emphasis on creating a faster, fitter and ideally more youthful squad. Which requires some sacrifice.
As for targets, two or three are staring us in the face. Newcastle loanees Rolando Aarons and Achraf Lazaar have done enough to impress. And the magnificent Michael Hector would be a great signing if he could be prised from Chelsea.
The rest is a giant jigsaw puzzle. But Wednesday have a man capable of putting it together over a period.