Gary Megson will demand that his players prevent an early-season drama turning into a crisis at Hillsborough on Saturday, writes Alan Biggs.
Sheffield Wednesday’s manager admits that his job is in the melting pot just three games into the new campaign.
Megson signed a much-needed winger yesterday in Stoke’s 20-year-old Ben Marshall but insists he also needs a proven goalscorer to spearhead the expected promotion bid.
It is no exaggeration to say Megson’s future, and that of Wednesday’s entire season, will be shaped by the events of the next nine days in two successive home matches.
Beat Notts County this weekend and Wednesday will be back on an even keel after this week’s back-to-back away defeats. Lose again and the possible consequences leave nothing to the imagination with the blame game already underway among anxious supporters.
Megson, who wanted Rotherham’s Adam Le Fondre, told the Telegraph: “We needed a wide player and Ben is a good one. It is blindingly obvious we need a forward as well.
“If we’d had one we could have been a couple of goals up at Bournemouth last Saturday. But we were poor at Bury, I have to be honest.
“You look at Simon Grayson at Leeds and people were calling for his head after two matches. If you’re going into management it’s something you have to accept.
“I’m at a club which is expecting to be near the top and we’re not. If we can get a result on Saturday, having won the last two at Hillsborough, there’s no reason why we can’t push on because I thought we had a good performance against Rochdale.
“We could shoot up the table but we’ve got it all to do. And everybody needs to recognise that this is Sheffield Wednesday.”
At no other club in League One would three points from the first nine be viewed in such terms but Hillsborough’s opening gate of 21,000 explains everything. And if anyone is in any further doubt, chairman Milan Mandaric, who has a high turnover of managers, is on record that he “won’t tolerate anything less than success.”
In fairness, Megson has been hampered by a sequence of events outside his control. To compound budget restrictions, he lost Jermaine Johnson before a ball was kicked, then keeper Nicky Weaver and now Chris O’Grady has broken down on his debut while influential centre half and skipper Rob Jones is a further doubt.
Perhaps the Johnson blow has been most damaging. Without him, the Owls are short of pace and penetration. For all the composure and solidity of the opening day win over Rochdale, Wednesday looked a team that would struggle to score without creative signings.
Although unanticipated defensive aberrations let them down at Bournemouth and Bury, the fact is they have scored just three goals in as many games, two of them from set pieces.
It is a predictable shortfall that will focus further attention on bringing in players of the type Megson needs, like Le Fondre and Huddersfield winger Gary Roberts.
Marshall, who was a Manchester youth player before extending an impressive apprenticeship in the Crewe academy, might be one solution if he reproduces the impact of last season’s loan at Carlisle where he scored five goals in 42 appearances.
The youngster said: “This is a great opportunity. My main position is as a winger but I can play up front.
“Hopefully I can bring some goals as well.”
In the meantime, Megson is calling for a stronger mentality from his team while knowing that all the attention will be on him if they don’t respond quickly.
- The funeral of former Sheffield Wednesday director Graham Thorpe takes place tomorrow (Friday) at Christ Church, Dore (2pm). Graham, who died suddenly at the age of 74, was renowned as a gentleman of football and will be sadly missed by all who knew him.