Fit-again midfielder Giles Coke can play an instrumental role in Sheffield Wednesday’s battle to retain their Championship status, according to Lee Bullen.
Coke has missed the Owls’ last seven matches in all competitions due to a hamstring problem. His last outing came in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at home to Bournemouth on December 21.
But the 27-year-old staked his claim for a first-team recall by impressing in the development squad’s clash with Huddersfield Town at Hillsborough yesterday.
Coke, in a five-man midfield, looked sharp before being taken off just after the hour mark. Kamil Zayatte, Paul Corry and Rhys McCabe were also given run-outs.
Development coach Bullen, who is assisting Wednesday caretaker boss Stuart Gray, told The Star: “It was great to see Giles back, get an hour under his belt and come through the game unscathed.
“I think he actually wanted to play on but we’ve got to be careful with him. I’ve had hamstring injuries myself so I know exactly how it is.”
Coke has made 16 appearances for Wednesday this season, starting two of Gray’s 11 matches in charge.
Once he is fully fit and deemed ready for a senior call-up, Coke may have to wait for a chance to prove his worth, given the partnership Kieran Lee and Jose Semedo have developed in the middle of the park. The duo have dovetailed effectively in recent weeks but Bullen has challenged Coke to give Gray a selection dilemma.
“Semi [Jose Semedo] and Kieran have been doing tremendously well in midfield but Giles is very important to us and can put pressure on them,” said the Scot. “Semi and Kieran have played a lot of games so we want as many players in that position as possible. We need people such as Giles and Rhys [McCabe] to be match fit and ready to come in if someone is having an off day.”
Defenders Martin Taylor (Achilles) and Lewis Buxton (groin) did not take part in yesterday’s 4-1 loss to Huddersfield. Bullen said centre-back Taylor could feature in next Monday’s Under-21 Professional Development League Two North clash at Barnsley. However, the former Wednesday captain is unsure when Buxton will return.
“He is desperate to come back but I think we have to put the brakes on him a little bit because we do not want him to come back too soon and break down,” he said. “We will be guided by the medical team and, at the moment, we don’t think Lewis is right.”