It’s fairly unusual if Stuart Gray does not mention the phrase ‘competition for places’ or ‘adding strength in depth’ to his squad when in conversation with the media.
I missed the goalless draw with Rotherham United but what stood out for me when I glanced at the Wednesday team-sheet was the lack of attacking options Gray had to choose from on his bench. Atdhe Nuhiu and Kieran Lee were their only potential game changers and Nuhiu came on earlier than Gray would have liked because of Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s injury.
With Gary Madine on loan at Coventry City and Royston Drenthe suspended, Gray was forced to turn to development squad players such as Matt Young, Paul Corry and Rhys McCabe. Between them, the trio have played less than 50 times at first-team level.
It is experience and knowledge that the Owls need at present if they are to arrest their slide down the Championship table. That’s why it looks like a smart piece of business by Gray to capture Lewis McGugan on loan from Watford.
In recent months, many Wednesdayites have complained at a lack of creativity in the middle of the park. McGugan brings poise, invention and an eye for a goal. Allied to Caolan Lavery returning to action, he can help bring the feelgood factor back to the training ground.
Sometimes a new face can revitalise a team. You only have to go back 12 months to recall the impact Connor Wickham made at Hillsborough. I’m not, for one moment, suggesting McGugan will come in and weigh in with the same number of goals as Wickham did. But, he certainly possesses the technique, ability and vision to break down oppositions at this level.
It will be interesting to see where Gray decides to deploy McGugan at Huddersfield tomorrow. By his own admission, McGugan is an attacking midfielder. Will Gray give him a licence to roam, playing him just off a striker, or will he ask the Nottingham-born man to be disciplined and play in a deeper role? Gray quickly has to figure out what’s the best position to maximise McGugan’s talent.
What Wednesday have indisputedly got with McGugan is a hungry player. He has only played seven times for the Hornets, who are fifth in the division, this season and will want to come in and contribute some assists and goals. If McGugan can add that extra class which has been sorely missing in the final third, it’s a win-win situation for all parties.