Pre-season Owls stick with traditon

Oguchi Onyewu
Oguchi Onyewu
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Wednesday’s date with Newcastle means that they are keeping up a tradition of playing one pre-season Hillsborough game against a big club.

Last year it was Rangers who added spice to the Owls’ summer preparations.

The visit of Newcastle on Wednesday, July 30, kick-off 7,45pm, will come 10 days before the start of the Championship campaign and will be the club’s only home friendly.

If Oguchi Onyewu remains with Wednesday then he will be facing one of his former club. He made 11 appearances for Newcastle in the early part of 2007 while loan from Belgian club Standard Liege.

The Owls’ other friendlies will, as usual, be away. Stuart Gray has confirmed that games against York and Bury and a match in Slovenia are in the pipeline but these and other fixtures have yet to be finalised.

But already the Owls’ summer is taking shape, with players knowing that they will be back at work on July 1. The Football League fixtures will be published on June 18, and the season starts on August 9. The first round of the Capital One Cup will be played in the week beginning August 11.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes that the Owls will give his team a meaningful test - an opinion held last year by Ally McCoist when Rangers came to town and Wednesday won 1-0.

Pardew’s outfit will also play in New Zealand and Germany, take on a European club at St James’s Park, and face Oldham and Huddersfield away.

The Newcastle boss said: “Pre-season is a crucial time for any football club so I’m very pleased with the mix of opposition and the training programme the squad will face.

“It’s vitally important that the players are fully prepared and get out of the blocks quickly when August comes around so we will be working hard to ensure they get the absolute maximum out of the games we’ve selected for them.”

Wednesday will hope for a smooth preparation this time. Various players, for example Lewis Buxton and Jacques Maghoma, missed significant amounts of fitness work last summer because of injuries.

Anthony Gardner thought things were going well for him - until he ruptured an Achilles tendon in the Championship game at Middlesbrough in August. It was a huge blow for him and the club, who lost a player who was a Player of the Year contender last season.

Gardner, now released by the Owls and looking to start a comeback elsewhere, reflects: “It was just unlucky; I felt I was in good form again; I’d worked hard to keep my fitness up and start the season strongly.

“But these things happen in football. You have to deal with it.

“The lads who came in did well, and so did Stuart Gray. He got us playing in a way that was attractive to the fans and got results. I enjoyed my time, especially the first season, even though it was rocky for us. Hopefully the club will do well next season.

“There are some good players there; they just need nurturing in the right way. They have a good coach, and hopefully he’ll get the best out of them.”