Dom Howson column: Stuart’s men might just make a Bright start

Michail Antonio was a player who excited and frustrated Owls fans.
Michail Antonio was a player who excited and frustrated Owls fans.
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Anything is possible in football.

A member of Stuart Gray’s Sheffield Wednesday squad said that to me this week. He is dead right.

The Championship is ridiculously unpredictable. Every year the division throws up at least one surprise. That’s why it is one of the most watched leagues in Europe.

Who honestly predicted Burnley would gain automatic promotion or that Crystal Palace would retain their Premier League status last season? It just goes to show what can be achieved with good management.

I, for one, will be happy when the action starts after a summer which has been overshadowed by Hafiz Mammadov’s proposed takeover of the club. The buyout has dragged on and on for more than two months now, leaving the fans deeply worried it will fall through.

The delay in the takeover has slowed up Gray’s recruitment drive, preventing him from revamping the squad to his liking. He has missed out on several transfer targets.

Selling one of your better players to another Championship club on the eve of the new season is not ideal either. But Nottingham Forest could end up paying close to £2 million for Michail Antonio, a forward who excites and frustrates in equal measure. There are times when Antonio, with his pace and power, can look unplayable at this level but too often his decision-making in the final third lets him down. A number of injury problems have derailed his progress in the last 18 months. Perhaps he needed a change of scenery to kick-start his career.

Allowing Antonio to leave Hillsborough could turn out to be a good bit of business by Wednesday. If his departure enables Gray to bring in reinforcements like St Johnstone striker Stevie May and Istres midfielder Florian Tardieu before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month, surely that can only be a good thing? What they lack now is strength in depth, particularly up front.

I maybe in a minority but I genuinely believe Wednesday’s starting 11 can be competitive in this league and feel they will give a good account of themselves at Brighton. They aren’t big on numbers but Gray has added quality in Keiren Westwood, Tom Lees, Sam Hutchinson and Dejan Kelhar.

Just remember, anything is possible.