Sheffield Wednesday: Players face new challenges

Jacques Maghoma scores in the 4-1 win against Macclesfield
Jacques Maghoma scores in the 4-1 win against Macclesfield
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It is to be hoped that there is not such a thing as a new-manager curse, writes Paul Thompson.

We all know about the Manager of the Month jinx: someone gets the award then loses the next game (it does not happen in every case, by the way).

It would be typical of football’s perversity if the Owls’ unbeaten run ends at Rochdale in the first game after it became clear that the Hillsborough job was firmly in the grasp of Stuart Gray.

That’s just a thought, before a tricky away tie against a side who are on a roll and beat Leeds 2-0 in the previous round of the FA Cup, and lest anyone thinks the Owls already have a foot in the last 16.

What the players have to do is remember how close they came to the slippery slope during the 4-1 replay win against Macclesfield, before Jacques Maghoma’s goal put them back in front, and how well they played in Stuart Gray’s first game in charge, against Leicester.

Like so many matches that follow a sacking, the Leicester clash saw the managerless team raise their game.

But it would be wrong to describe the Owls as a having been managerless in the last two months.

Gray has fitted the bill even if he did not have the full title, and the move towards appointing him was the right one.

The test set before Gray by Milan Mandaric has been passed.

If there had been a queue of outstanding managers waiting for the job then maybe the decision would have been less easy.

I did not understand why Paul Ince was still the subject of some speculation this week when he had been sacked by Blackpool and scathingly criticised by the Seasiders chairman and had taken only one point from the last 10 games. Even before that, Mandaric was not pursuing anyone else, as Gray gradually strengthened his claim.

I doubt if anyone else could have done better than Gray’s haul of 15 points from nine games, looking at the fixtures.

If the Owls can add a place in the FA Cup fifth round to their improving league results then life will be sweet indeed.

Gray modestly piles credit on the players for the recent progress.

It is up to them of course to make sure it continues.