Sheffield Wednesday: Dixie’s respect for the ‘Gaffer’

John Deehan
John Deehan

Head coach might be Stuart Gray’s job title at Sheffield Wednesday, but John Deehan only knows him by one name.

“I actually call Stuart gaffer,” Deehan told The Star. “In my eyes, he is the manager of the football club and the person who makes the decisions.”

Gray brought in Deehan as assistant coach last January. Deehan’s duties include scouting, covering matches and individual players the club want to recruit and dealing with agents.

Deehan said: “I think Wednesday had drawn Rochdale in the fourth round of the FA Cup and Stuart said he wanted me to come and watch the game and analyse what we are doing.

“Stuart was given the green light to bring in another coach and I was delighted when I got the call. He told me he wanted me to come into the club and help make a little bit of a change.

“The club were on a good run at the time. There were some fantastic results that Stuart managed to achieve like the 6-0 victory over Leeds. I think there were several quality managers in the frame for the job, but I was hoping personally that Stuart would get another opportunity because I think he is a good manager.”

Gray’s and Deehan’s friendship dates back to their days together at Aston Villa. At Villa Park under John Gregory, Gray was coach, Deehan assistant manager.

Nicknamed ‘Dixie’, the 57-year-old has given a big insight into Gray’s managerial style.

Deehan said: “Stuart doesn’t leave anybody out. He involves all the analysts and fitness coaches. They are as important to him as any other member of staff.

“There is a big togetherness in the group and I would like to think if someone steps over the line, it won’t just be Stuart who says something, it will be the players, fitness coaches and everybody else. There is a big belief in what we are trying to do.”

Gray is a pretty unflappable individual. It takes a lot to wind him up on the touchline. He keeps his emotions in check.

“What I’ve got immense respect for Stuart for is his own personal man management control,” he said. “A lot of supporters and managers won’t see the passion he’s got for games.

“You can play other teams and managers are dancing about and performing in front of the officials. Probably 33 per cent of the managers in the country perform towards the officials.

“As a supporter, you probably want to see that because you want to see your team get free-kicks and decisions in your favour.

“But Stuart is very calm and focused so much on the game. He will not get swayed by decisions like that and I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him for the way he conducts himself towards the referee and match officials.

“I would like to see more current and young managers take a look at Stuart. That’s the way I would like to see managers or coaches on the touchline behaving. If you get performing monkeys on the touchline, it’s going to transfer into youth teams and further down the leagues.

“Stuart is a fantastic role model for all of our young boys at youth level. I very rarely hear him raise his voice and when he does it’s because it’s usually needed in the dressing room.”

On the training ground, Deehan pays particular attention to Wednesday’s front men, passing on his advice and knowledge.

He said: “I’ve obviously always liked working with the strikers. I don’t profess to be an expert at defensive set-up and team systems. I think Stuart is excellent and really good at that side.”

He is encouraged by the partnership Owls duo Stevie May and Atdhe Nuhiu have formed up front.

“You probably need 10 games to understand what each other is really good at,” stressed Deehan, who played as a striker for West Brom, Norwich, Ipswich, Manchester City and Barnsley. “Stevie has a history of scoring goals from distance in Scotland. Hopefully that might come.

“He scored a good goal the other night against Birmingham from just inside the area.”

Nuhiu, Wednesday’s leading goal-scorer, is a “hidden gem”, according to Deehan.

He said: “Attey is a rough diamond. Many people castigated him last season and didn’t think he was the answer to what the club wanted. I thought it was unfair.

“I wouldn’t want to play against him. He’s awkward. Because of his size, you know he’s not going to be lightning quick but he uses his body and talent well. I think his hold up is as good as anyone’s in the division.

“What Chris Martin does for Derby, Attey does for us. He is being that shield, holding the ball up.”

Deehan wishes Caolan Lavery a speedy recovery from his injury. The young forward is unlikely to return to action until January because of a serious knee problem he suffered in the pre-season draw at Doncaster Rovers.

“We were really disappointed to lose Caolan,” said Deehan. “He is a really exciting talent.”

He admits he has been “pleasantly surprised” by Gary Madine’s performances in the Owls’ bright start to the campaign.

He said: “He’s done really well and has not looked out of place at all. He’s looked a Championship player, possibly even Premier League.”