Sheffield Wednesday: Big ask to replace Owls star

Big blow: Replacing Michael Antonio is a big ask. Picture: Steve Ellis
Big blow: Replacing Michael Antonio is a big ask. Picture: Steve Ellis

WHEN Michail Antonio crashed to the ground and stayed there the other week against Cardiff, concern was etched on the face of Dave Jones.

The subsequent diagnosis was as bad as first feared and news that the Owls’ flyer would not be spreading his wings any more this season, would have come as a savage blow to the Sheffield Wednesday manager.

There was no disguising the fact Antonio, wide or down the middle, would be a big miss and his absence likely to have a significant impact on the rest of the season.

For Jones, a priority was how to lessen that damaging impact.

Bringing someone in was the obvious option but, on the basis it’s no use worrying about people not there, he swung the spotlight on those who would be. “Stake your own claim”, he suggested.

Of course, the choice isn’t from a particularly long list hence the reckoning that Jones would strive to add to his strike force this week.

Although ostensibly a winger, Antonio had been effective playing down the middle, offering pace and power and his attributes helped Wednesday spring decisively from a base of defensive solidity.

Jermaine Johnson could play a similar role and, in fact, did so against Barnsley three years ago.

On that occasion in January 2010 - Alan Irvine’s first game as manager - he was a surprise pick down the middle and his pace terrorised the

Barnsley defence that day in Wednesday’s 2-1 win.

However, Johnson is regarded as a winger and unlikely to be inked in for a permanent run down the middle.

A recall for Gary Madine would, however, change the dynamics of Wednesday’s attacking capabilities. Madine, more the target man, has been out of favour and hasn’t started since the end of December.

But, Jones recently went with on-loan Connor Wickham in the sort of little-and-large partnership with Leroy Lita that a Madine return would offer.

At other times, Chris O’Grady would be in the equation but the decision to loan him out to Barnsley suggests his Owls career may not be one of longevity. Summer signing Chris Maguire has barely figured.

Finding another Antonio type is difficult. The interest in Bolton’s ex-Chesterfield man Kevin Davies was somewhat inevitable and may be a pointer to the way ahead.

It will interesting to see the solution Jones comes up with.