Sam’s the man, as Gray looks to keep hold of Owls’ loan rangers

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Sheffield Wednesday are expected to extend the loan of at least one player, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Birmingham City.

The Owls faced FA Cup semi-finalists - and holders - Wigan Athletic on Wednesday with seven loan players on their roster.

And although goalkeeper Damian Martinez and striker Andelko Savic - from Arsenal and Sampdoria respectively - are on season-long deals, the short-term futures of Sam Hutchinson, Gary Gardner, Leon Best and Adedeji Oshilaja remain less clear.

All four players are understood to be keen to extend their stays at Hillsborough, having grown frustrated at the lack of opportunities at their parent clubs.

Chelsea man Hutchinson, in particular, is thought to have impressed Wednesday boss Stuart Gray, although a late red card in the 2-0 defeat to Yeovil last weekend blotted his copybook somewhat.

The youngster, a defender by trade, has impressed in midfield in the absence of Kieran Lee and Jose Semedo, often alongside Aston Villa’s Gardner.

Young Switzerland Under-21 international Savic has made only one substitute appearance for the Owls, while Afobe - of Arsenal - and Blackburn striker Best have each score one goal apiece in blue and white.

“We’ve spoken to the players, and they are keen to extend,” Gray revealed.

“Now it’s just down to the parent clubs to give the deals the green light. We wanted to get the Wigan game out of the way before announcing anything, but we hope to get something sorted before Birmingham.”

Wednesday have had to rely heavily on the loan market this term, with players like Roger Johnson, Matty Fryatt and Connor Wickham all proving popular during their temporary stays in Sheffield.

All three have now moved on, with Johnson now at West Ham and Wickham on loan at Leeds United, and Gray added: “The loan market is fantastic at times.

“The only problem is that players we can get on loan aren’t featuring for their parent clubs, so we have to get them fit by playing them in games.

“We did that with Roger, and we did that with Connor. It’s difficult to pick up that match intensity in training, or when you aren’t playing games.

“It isn’t their fault, of course, but needs must.”

Gray also leapt to the defence of striker Best, who is yet to hit the net for Wednesday in Championship competition.

His solitary Owls strike came in the FA Cup defeat to Charlton, and Gray added: “People expect loan strikers to come in and score goals instantly, maybe because that’s what Connor and Matty did.

“But to put it simply, if we don’t create chances for them from open play, then they won’t.

“Forwards thrive on good service and love to score goals, but Leon is another one who wasn’t playing regularly.

“You can train all you like, but there is nothing like playing games with people challenging you and showing the commitment that a competitive environment brings.

“We need to provide the service for whoever plays upfront; be it Best, Afobe, Caolan Lavery or Atdhe Nuhiu.”

Speaking after the Yeovil defeat, Gray admitted he was looking for a response from his players against Uwe Rösler’s Latics - who beat Manchester City at the weekend in a repeat of last year’s FA Cup final.

“Players need to take responsibility,” the Owls chief continued.

“We don’t want anyone to pass the buck. When games aren’t going for you, it’s important to get back to basics and try and put the ball in the box.

“If you don’t win the first ball, then make sure you win the second one - we didn’t do that against Yeovil, but they did.

“I haven’t questioned my players since I took this job, but I did on Saturday... we just turned out, and I’m looking for a reaction from them going forward, until the end of the season.”