Jose Semedo and Kieran Lee are showing team-mates what it takes to hold down a place in midfield, believes Stuart Gray.
They have played together in nearly every game of Gray’s reign; they are the reason why Stephen McPhail could lose his place for today’s clash with Leeds, and why Rhys McCabe has yet to break into the starting line-up.
Semedo and Lee have played whether the Owls have fielded a 4-5-1 formation in away games or 4-4-2 at home.
McPhail has started only four of the eight league and cup matches under Gray; he was rested altogether for the last home match, the 2-0 win against Blackpool, and recalled as an extra midfield man at Macclesfield when Atdhe Nuhiu played on his own up front.
Gray could go back to just Semedo and Lee in the middle today. McPhail may be 34 and not the most forceful midfielder but his undoubted passing ability makes him an asset that the club want to keep
With McCabe having had an eight-match run on the bench, Gray says: “Rhys knows, and I’ve had a good chat with him, that they’re are two types of game: with the ball and without the ball.
“Rhys needs to learn about when he’s without the ball and put in a bit more effort and commitment. You have to teach yourself that side of the game, and my job is to teach that side.
“He also has to look at Semedo and Lee and why they’re in the team - they’re doing the correct things.”
McPhail is not assuming that he will start against Leeds: “I’ve spoken with Stuart about my role in the team, and different formations and different ways of playing. At my age as well, it’s important I stay focused.
“He’s spoken to me in depth about how I’m going to keep fresh, keep going and have an impact on the play; I try to control it as much as I can.
“It works probably a bit more away from home, when we have one up front, two wingers and three players to flood midfield; I try to keep the ball and get us playing.
“At home, we’ve tried to open teams up more so we’ve played two up front. The two boys in midfield, Kieran and Jose, have done really well. Semedo has been excellent.
“I’ll have no qualms if I have to miss out but I’m ready to come in, if it’s for 10 minutes, if it’s for an hour or I start again next week.”
McPhail came through the Leeds ranks to play in the Premier League and Europe: “It’s a great club and the fans were amazing, but I hope we win.”