Sheffield Wednesday: A win would be tweet relief for Gray and his men

Owls boss Stuart Gray
Owls boss Stuart Gray
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You won’t find Stuart Gray tweeting, on Facebook or reading the sports section of a newspaper anytime soon.

“I don’t read the Press and I advise the players not to,” admitted the Sheffield Wednesday boss ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Charlton Athletic.

When he speaks to the media, Gray puts on a bright, cheerful persona. Occasionally journalists throw statistics at him but he pays little attention to facts and figures. Like his predecessor, Dave Jones, he believes statistics can easily be manipulated.

There was a feel-good factor around Hillsborough following their steady start to the season.

But there have been some grumbles from the terraces after a seven-match winless run. Gray, naturally, prefers to accentuate the positives, pointing to their four draws with Ipswich, Leeds, Brentford and Norwich. The Owls took the lead in two out of those four Championship tussles.

He is happy with the progress they have made. 12 months ago, Wednesday had not won a match, were bottom of the table and had yet to record a clean sheet.

He said: “We have come a long way from where we were this time last year.

“We started very, very well and the expectation level always goes up.”

Gray knows football is a results-driven business. Three points at The Valley would silence the team’s critics and make some of the negativity, which is threatening to creep in, disappear.

“The team are always going to falter,” he said.

“Maybe the opposition have figured out what are strengths are and we need to rejig things.

“I can’t fault the effort and commitment. If we weren’t putting in the hard work, I would be concerned. We’ve just got to keep believing and hopefully we will get a break and something will go in off Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s knee.”

There was plenty of crossing and shooting practice taking place at Wednesday’s training ground yesterday. After three Owls blanks in a row, Gray is desperate to find a solution to their goal-scoring woes.

“I just said to the players ‘it’s about trusting yourself’,” said Gray. “I would rather they try and fail.

“They’ve got to take it on when they are 18 yards away from goal.

“They’ve got to realise their roles and responsibilities in the team. It’s a learning curve.

“We are not the only team who are struggling to get a win or score goals. There are some bigger clubs than us with bigger squads.”

Gray, frustrated by the side’s lack of end product in the final third, feels a win can reignite their season.

“We were struggling after 17 games last season and put a run together,” he stressed. “I’ve got every confidence we can do that again.

“If I can get a couple of players in who I want, I think they will improve us and we will cause teams problems.”

New recruit Taylor-Fletcher is in contention to start, having come on as a substitute against Norwich City. The 33-year-old striker almost marked his debut with a goal but his first touch let him down in a one on one.

“You’ve got to give Gary credit,” he said. “He could have just sat on the bench and picked up his money.

“Leicester have got some fantastic games against the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea but he knows, at his age, he needs to get out and play some games.

“He’s scored over 100 league goals. He showed in training on Thursday morning what a good striker he is. He reads, gambles and anticipates. Gary can pass on his experience.

“Gary has this habit of being johnny on the spot and he nearly got a goal for us on Saturday.”

Charlton (possible) 4-4-2: Henderson; Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Fox; Wilson, Buyens, Jackson, Bulot; Moussa, Tucudean.

Wednesday (possible) 4-4-2: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Mattock; Maguire, Semedo, Lee, Helan or Maghoma; May, Nuhiu or Taylor-Fletcher.

Andy D’Urso. It will be the Essex official’s 12th match of the season. D’Urso has brandished 34 bookings and three red cards. The experienced referee last officiated an Owls match in March when he dismissed Middlesbrough midfielder Dean Whitehead for two bookable offences as Atdhe Nuhiu converted a late penalty.