Sheffield Wednesday: Gray hopes softly, softly approach will pay off

Owls keeper Keiren Westwood
Owls keeper Keiren Westwood
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Different bosses have differing approaches to how they manage their squads during the international breaks.

Some approach fitness during the first week of the blank fortnight as if back in the early days of pre-season, topping up stamina ahead of another busy month.

But for Owls head coach Stuart Gray, rest was the order of the day after an intense first month of the campaign which brought seven games in 21 days.

“After the Nottingham Forest game I gave the players a few days off to recharge their batteries,” he told the Star.

“It’d had been a very busy month for the squad and I felt that was the best use of the time we had.

“They were brought back in last Thursday and had a double session.

“And then this week it’s been like any normal week when you’ve got a game at the end of it.

“We’ve had to be mindful of the run of games we’ve just been through and the run we have coming up because it’s another seven games in 21 days again starting at Bolton.

“But you never really know if you’ve gone about things in the right way during the break until you’ve had that first game back.

“We’ll only really know after Bolton.”

Whatever the result at the Macron Stadium this weekend, it would be harsh to blame Gray for taking the softly, softly approach on his squad.

Sam Hutchinson’s back issues have continued to hamper him during the break, putting his involvement in Saturday’s game in doubt.

Kieran Lee’s expected return to action is also in doubt due to on-going problems.

Gray said: “Sam’s just got a slight problem that is on-going and it’s the same with Kieran.

“The frustrating thing is you want as many players as you can for selection and Sam and Kieran are important players for us.

“We’ll continue to monitor them because the last thing you want to do is throw them back in too early and risk losing them for longer.

“We’ve got another busy month ahead and we need to be ready for that.”

Another player on the monitoring list is goalkeeper Keiren Westwood who cut short international duty with Republic of Ireland due to tonsillitis.

Westwood reported back to the club on Tuesday and took part in a light training session.

Gray said: “Keiren looked very pale in training and he’s still got to finish his course of antibiotics.

“He should be ok for the weekend but we’ll have to keep an eye on him.”

Gray will be hoping for a clean bill of health for Stevie May who yesterday reported back from international duty with Scotland U21.

A positive during the international break has been the return to training of Lewis Buxton.

The defender played more than an hour of the U21’s clash with Swansea last Friday as he steps up his comeback from a knee injury suffered in the summer.