SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Jones pursues £8m striker Wickham

Connor Wickham.
Connor Wickham.

Sheffield Wednesday are maintaining a firm interest in Sunderland’s £8m striker Connor Wickham.

Boss Dave Jones is ready to consider loaning out Chris O’Grady - but only if it helps him land a prime striker target.

Barnsley’s raid for O’Grady wasn’t ruled out, only mothballed, while Jones - who must offload before he can recruit - pursued Wickham among others.

Reds boss Keith Hill then signed ex-Owls forward Marcus Tudgay amid the likelihood that Barnsley will pursue O’Grady as well.

The departure of the club’s top scorer, boasting five goals in all competitions, would be unpopular with fans who admire his wholehearted, uncomplaining approach.

But Jones currently has no other options to make room for a striker with Wednesday already carrying five. An attempt to loan Chris Maguire to Portsmouth was scuppered by injury while Jay Bothroyd is locked into a half-season loan from QPR.

Jones needs a regular marksman to lift the Owls from the danger zone and secure his own future. He is still in the hunt for Wickham whose capture would certainly appease the feeling over O’Grady.

The former Ipswich marksman, who scored for England Under 21s on Tuesday, remains in limbo. Stoke’s Cameron Jerome is another name linked.

Jones is also facing a tactical dilemma that could be resolved by Wednesday being at home in three of the four matches after Saturday’s trip to the City Ground.

Being away to a possession-hogging passing side like Nottingham Forest does not seem a likely backdrop for Jones to answer the clamour for a return to 4-4-2, which might be his only way of harnessing Bothroyd’s true goal threat after his patchy spell as a wide midfielder. But the visits of Leicester, Watford and Bristol City - either side of a trip to Cardiff - could see it re-addressed.

Of course, if the Owls were to prevail on Saturday with their current tighter system Jones would have grounds for persevering with it. Yet Wednesday’s best sequence of the season came amid the bravado of their fine start at a time when the manager pledged “attack as the best form of defence.”

His retreat from that in an understandable attempt to plug leaks has stripped the side of the twin flank threat posed by Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson.

If Wednesday have an edge over Championship opposition in any department it is arguably the explosive nature of those two wingers in harness.

They will delight and frustrate in equal measure but on their day they are simply unstoppable.

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