Sheffield Wednesday: Owls new boys ready for battle

Striker Atdhe Nuhiu will make his Hillsborough bow against Burnley tomorrow
Striker Atdhe Nuhiu will make his Hillsborough bow against Burnley tomorrow

Many Owls fans will get their first close look at Atdhe Nuhiu, Kamil Zayatte, Jacques Maghoma and Rafa Floro tomorrow.

All four are in line for their home competitive debuts for the Owls.

However they fare against Burnley, Dave Jones feels that they are still building up their match fitness and familiarity with the Championship.

It will be Nuhiu’s second game at this level, Floro’s first, and a first start for Maghoma after he went on as a sub at QPR and played in the League Cup-tie at Rotherham.

At Hull, Zayatte had six months in the division as well as two years in the Premier League and was captain Anthony Gardner’s centre-back partner there. But Jones feels that even Zayatte is not fully “battle hardened” this summer and could have had a fuller pre-season with the Owls.

The overall message is that it early days yet for individuals and the team.

That does not stop the manager from feeling that there should be nothing to prevent the side from recapturing the standards that very nearly overcame a former Premier League side last week but went missing at Rotherham.

“Atdhe is short of match practice,” says Jones, who landed the slim, 6ft 6in centre forward only a fortnight ago. “Jacques is short of it as well, and so is Kamil.

“We felt they needed to play at Rotherham. It was a Catch 22 situation. Do you rest them, or play them to help them get that battle-hardness?

“They played for part of the game and that will have benefited them. But you have to be wary of them pulling something and getting injured.

“Slowly but surely, they’ll get the battle-hardness that you need.

“They all missed the full pre-season with us and when you do that you’re playing catch-up, and you’re always trying to work out when is the best time to give them a rest.”

Zayatte, a strong and mobile centre back, was plunged straight into the side at QPR after being signed the day beforehand, having been on trial with the club.

Maghoma, a pacy winger or striker, missed almost all the pre-season games because of an ankle injury.

Floro, from Portugual, played at Rotherham after the arrival of his international clearance and the stocky, quick little left back looks likely to keep his place with Reda Johnson (ankle) and Joe Mattock (knee) still out. Mattock is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks.

Johnson is back in light training but Jones thinks he needs some sort of match warm-up before he returns to the first team: “We threw him in at the deep end last season because he was needed.

“We can’t afford for him to break down and miss half the season again.” But Jones thinks that Johnson is “not far away”.

Liam Palmer continues to deputise for Lewis Buxton, who has been suffering from illness and even had spell in hospital, as well as feeling his shin condition. Last season’s Player of the Year has not been training but is expected back next week.

Palmer has adapted so well that Jones says: “Lewis will have a job on his hands (to regain his place) when he is fit.

“The good thing is that Lewis is naturally fit. He won ‘t be as long as somebody who has to work at it.”

Wednesday drew 3-3 at Turf Moor last October but lost 2-0 at home to the Clarets on New Year’s Day, when one of the goals was scored by Keith Treacy. He is unlikely to start tomorrow.

Treacy, who was a member of the Owls’ promotion side, was an unused sub for an unchanged team in the 4-0 League Cup win at York on Tuesday.

Jones said: “Burnley are very strong and they’ll play. We had a good game at their place, where we should have beaten them. When they played us here they were having a push at the time and they played well.

“They’ve got good players. They’ll get it down and play; most of the teams are like that. It’s a very tight league again.”