Sheffield Wednesday boss Stuart Gray admits he hopes to re-sign Connor Wickham on loan, but insists: We are not a one-man team.
Gray, who was appointed as Wednesday’s permanent head coach on a two-and-a-half-year deal on Saturday, was brought back down to earth on Monday with news that Wickham was to be recalled early by Sunderland, his parent club.
Wickham, who scored eight times in 11 starts during his second loan spell at Hillsborough, was due to return to the Stadium of Light yesterday.
Sunderland’s impending signing of £3m Internacional striker Ignacio Scocco has further raised hopes that Wickham will be allowed a third loan spell with Wednesday.
But his goalscoring exploits are known to have caught the eye of a number of Wednesday’s Championship rivals - and Gray hopes that the player chooses to return to Hillsborough, if he is allowed out on loan again.
“It was a huge disappointment to lose Connor,” Gray said.
“And I know the lad was disappointed to be recalled, too.
“He wants to come back, and I am very confident that he will.”
Gray revealed he is in “constant dialogue” with Gus Poyet, the Sunderland manager, about Wickham’s future.
“It was a bit of a bolt out of the blue to lose Connor,” Gray, who celebrated his first game as permanent Wednesday boss with a battling 1-1 draw at Millwall on Tuesday evening, said.
“But fingers crossed we can get him back. If we don’t, the lads showed down at Millwall that we are far from a one-man team: we showed that we attack with 11 men, and we defend with 11 men.”
Gray has also failed in an attempt to re-sign another former Owls loan star, Matty Fryatt, from Premier League side Hull City.
Fryatt scored twice in Hull’s FA Cup win over Southend last weekend, but looks unlikely to play ahead of Steve Bruce’s new £14million strike pairing, Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic.
“It is natural when two new signings are made they will get picked, so I’m behind them,” Fryatt admitted.
“I was grateful to go out on loan to Wednesday and score a few goals. If given an opportunity I will do my best but at the minute I’m not starting games.
“What will be will be; if Hull don’t play me or don’t want me and someone comes in, then we will see.”
The Telegraph understands, however, that Bruce is unwilling to loan Fryatt out again, and would favour a permanent deal for the striker - whose reported £20,000 a week wages could scupper any possible Wednesday deal.
Newspaper reports in Italy also claim that Stefano Okaka, Parma’s out-of-favour former Fulham striker, has turned down the chance to join Wednesday until the end of the season.
“We are talking to people at the moment,” Gray admitted, ahead of tomorrow’s transfer deadline.
“But, as ever, we are waiting on decisions from players.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but it always seems to be at the last minute when deals get over the line.
“It always seems to end up in a mad scramble in the last hour but if that happens again, then so be it.
“If we can’t get anything done, then there’s always the emergency loan window to utilise when it opens next week.”
Gray’s need for reinforcements was increased on Tuesday night, when Giles Coke was sent off after putting Wednesday ahead at Millwall.
Coke reacted to a challenge from Millwall’s Shane Lowry, and both players were shown straight red cards - meaning Coke will miss Wednesday’s next three games, against Barnsley, Reading and Wigan.
“Giles is adamant that the boy Lowry stamped on him, but he can’t react like that,” Gray, who saw DJ Campbell’s equaliser deny his side all three points, added.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to walk away from situations and let the referee deal with it.”
Ahead of this weekend’s big derby showdown with Danny Wilson’s Barnsley at Hillsborough, Gray is sweating on the fitness of Glenn Loovens.
The Dutch defender was withdrawn at half time at the New Den with a hamstring injury, which he sustained in the warm-up.
His withdrawl was a precaution to avoid a hamstring tear, which would put him out of action for 6-8 weeks.
The Owls have moved six points clear of their South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley, who are second from bottom and five points adrift of safety.
The Reds do possess an in-form striker of their own, however, in the shape of former Owl Chris O’Grady.
O’Grady netted both Barnsley goals in their 2-0 win over Blackpool last weekend, and scored their equaliser against Blackburn on Tuesday evening.