Sheffield Wednesday: Defence headache for Owls

Kieran Lee was a huge success at right back when he was at Oldham
Kieran Lee was a huge success at right back when he was at Oldham

If Hayden White had still been with Wednesday then perhaps he would have been in contention to play against Bolton rather than for them tomorrow.

The former Owls youngster made his full debut for the Trotters in their 1-0 defeat by Leicester this week and is in the running for tomorrow’s Hillsborough game.

His return coincides with his former club’s shortage of right backs, which also has a knock-on effect in midfield.

Kieran Lee seems the obvious choice to revert to the position where he was Oldham’s best player, now it has been confirmed that Liam Palmer will miss the final two games of the season. Lewis Buxton was already ruled out.

Sam Hutchinson would probably have been next in line: he regarded himself as a right back when he arrived on loan from Chelsea, though he has played only in midfield for the Owls so far. But he will be serving the second part of his two-match ban for his sending-off at Bournemouth.

Stuart Gray will only say it is a “possibility” that Lee will play right back. If he does, Paul Corry could be a contender for central midfield, having been on the bench for the Charlton match, but Gray has also recalled Rhys McCabe from his loan at Portsmouth.

Chris Maguire is another option, for he slotted into the middle in the second half on Monday and feels comfortable in the position.

Glenn Loovens will return to the back four if he is fit enough - he had an injection on Wednesday in an attempt to alleviate his hamstring problem and he trained yesterday, hoping for no reaction.

But Gray has found himself right back in a familiar position of losing defenders to injuries: “I just cannot believe the season we’ve had,” he says. “But I’ll put 11 out there and what we want to do is put behind us the disappointment that we had against Charlton.”

The Owls boss will only blood youngsters if he feels they are good enough and the opportunity is right for them: “Whether one or two get a little taste, you’ll have to wait and see.” Gray says that it is a huge jump from Under 21 football to the first team.

It is more likely that new blood would come on to the bench rather than straight into the senior side.

White, aged 19, was in the Owls’ young crop but turned down the offer of a pro contract at the end of his academy scholarship and elected to sign for Bolton.

The clubs agreed on compensation, and Jones was later to say, last August: “We have sold a young player for £80-90,000 who was only in the door for five minutes and if he plays the games then we’ll get over half a million for him.”

The then Wednesday manager did not name the player but he was believed to be referring to White.

Gray watched Bolton’s match against Leicester. He said: “Leicester played very welll; Bolton played 3-5-2; the young boy that we had, Hayden White, made his debut; he only played 45 minutes, couldn’t really get in the game.

“We offered him a professional contract but the boy and his agent decided that the grass was greener elsewhere. We were disappointed.

“It looked like it was probably a bit too much for him the other night, but he’s obviously trained well and played well and Dougie (Freedman) has thought he was worth a go.

“It was a difficult debut for him against a very good Leicester side. They play the ball around well.

“We wish him all the best - after this Saturday’s game.

“I would imagine Bolton will probably feel that with the budget and squad quality they have, they’ve under-achieved this season; they’ve got some big-name players.

“But again it’s our patch; I want us to put on a performance, I’m more concerned with what we do than what Bolton do.”

Bolton too have injury problems: White’s chances of playing are improved by a doubt about Alex Baptiste.

Gray said: “I think Dougie has a huge squad and can cope with injuries.”

Bolton started with 3-5-2 but switched to 4-4-2: “Beckford came on and changed the game for them,” added the Owls chief, who has focused on tightening his team up:

“When I got the job we hadn’t had a clean sheet. I decided to make us more solid, We stopped leaking goals and were winning games.

“For some strange reason, we’re getting punished for it every mistake, at the moment. It seems we need to score four goals to win a game! It’s something we’ve been adressing on the training ground.

“We can’t keep gifting teams goals.”