Sheffield Wednesday: Onyewu targets play-offs

Wednesday defender Oguchi Onyewu is refusing to give up on a place in the play-offs.

He believes that the Owls’ chances cannot be written off in view of the way they have already done the unexpected and now stand 12 points off the top six with 30 still to play for. I just want to help the club as much as I can in order to push for a play-off spot,” he said.

Oguchi Onyewu in command against his former club, QPR

Oguchi Onyewu in command against his former club, QPR

“I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say we are capable of achieving that. I definitely think we have a squad of quality players that deserve, in terms of their ability, to be in the play-offs right now.

“To gets the points that we need to climb up the table, that’s my main objective.”

Onyewu, known by colleagues as Guchi, accepts that some observers will disagree with his optimism:

“Critics are there to criticise; that’s their nature and that’s fine. But nobody a few weeks ago would have believed we would beat QPR 3-0, or three months ago would have believed we’d be where we are in the table right now.

“I think you can see we have quality players, we play quality football. and against any team in this league we can compete. That’s the message we are trying to portray every time we go on the field.”

The Owls are in 14th place as they head for fifth-from-bottom Doncaster today - with the USA international and World Cup hopeful believing that they must avoid the hint of complacency that contributed to their defeat at strugglers Yeovil.

“We’re looking not to make the same mistake we made at Yeovil,” he confirms. “We’re not going to under-estimate them. I think you respect all opponents without fearing them.”

The centre half is also reflecting on a “special” night when he played in the 3-0 win against his former club, QPR, and had an assist for Leon Best’s goal.

“To score four against Birmingham and then win in the manner we did against quality players is a good thing for the team after the hard work we have put in,” he says.

“Before the QPR game, the gaffer came to me and said ‘you have nothing to prove; just play how you’ve been playing every week.

“I was really focused. I was playing against former team-mates. against the coach who didn’t give me an opportunity to play (Harry Redknapp). In my head I wanted to proved to them I should have been playing there in the first place. Then when Stuart talked to me, it kind of calmed me down and relaxed me.

“To be a part of it was special, and everybody played well, as a team.

“There a definite work ethic, Credit to the coach as well. It’s his job to put in the best 11 players who go well together and I think he’s doing a great job in finding the right formula, and in putting in the right player when we have injuries. Many coaches don’t have that ability.”

His move to Hillsborough has had the desired effect of improving his chances of playing his way into America’s squad for Brazil this summer.

“I think my best football is yet to come for the club,” he says.

“I’m grateful to Stuart Gray and Sheffield Wednesday for giving me the opportunity to play and prove myself. When I hear the fans chanting ‘USA’ every game, it’s a good feeling. I hope I can repay them with good performances.

“I feel like I’ve been playing here for three years, people have been so nice and welcoming to me.

“When I left London, people said that generally people up North are a lot more friendly and open. I’ve definitely seen that.”

He is still open-minded about his future, with his contract running out this summer.

“The better I play for Wednesday the more chance I have of being in that (World Cup) squad,” he says.

“The last few years, with injuries and being at different clubs, have been difficult for me but I’ve been able to push towards progress and success. A lot of hard work and dedication has been put in, and I think right now the club, myself and everything else around me is reaping the rewards of that.

“I’ve played in two world cups, but every one is like your first. The atmosphere in Brazil is going to be unreal, unforgettable; to be a part of that would be something special.

The USA’s group includes Ghana, Portugal and Germany. He says: “Germany are a world-class team; Portugal arguably have the best player in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo). I’ve played against him. It wasn’t easy. He’s a handful. He lives up to all the hype he has received in his career. He’s world class and he’s proved that in La Liga.

“And you have Ghana, who knocked us out of the last two world cups. We’ll be doing everythiong in our power not to make that three.

“It’s going to a very hard-fought group. I think there are four favourites to win it. Anybody can beat anybody else.”