Sheffield Wednesday: Gray’s appetite for hungry, young side

Sheffield Wednesday forward Caolan Lavery.
Sheffield Wednesday forward Caolan Lavery.
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Commitment, desire and enthusiasm.

These are qualities Owls boss Stuart Gray expects every footballer who works under him to possess.

“Supporters want players who will take pride in putting the shirt on and somebody giving 100 per cent,” he recently told The Star.

“If they fail, fail on ability rather than a lack of application.”

Having been told by Sheffield Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric he can sign up to seven new faces this summer, Gray is targeting young, hungry players.

They have so far recruited Matt Young, Ed Sanders, Ryan Croasdale and Paul McElroy who are set to be members of their development squad.

Gray said: “I want to be able to say I’ve got two left-backs, two-right-backs, three or four centre-backs, because you’ve got to have competition.”

Lowering the average age of the squad features high on Gray’s list of priorities.

“Last season probably just caught up with us, with too many 30-plus players, because you have to go Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday,” he said.

“We probably got found out because our squad was a bit thin.”

I understand Chris Kirkland, Glenn Loovens, Oguchi Onyewu and Jose Semedo will shortly sign new contracts to remain at Hillsborough. All four played key roles last term.

Nonetheless, Wednesday still lack strength in depth in a number of areas.

Will Gray choose to bring in a new shot-stopper to keep Kirkland on his toes or put his trust in Cameron Dawson or Joe Wildsmith?

More cover is certainly required at the heart of the Owls’ rearguard. Loovens, Onyewu and Kamil Zayatte are the only recognised central defenders currently on their books.

Gray is keen on increasing the defensive options at his disposal.

It is a different story in the full-back positions. Lewis Buxton, Liam Palmer and Kieran Lee can be deployed at right-back while Joe Mattock, Jeremy Helan and Rafael Floro are expected to fight it out for the spot on the opposite flank.

There is speed, trickery and goals in wide players Michail Antonio, Jacques Maghoma, Chris Maguire, Caolan Lavery and Jack Stobbs.

However, the middle of the park remains a concern.

Lee, Semedo, Giles Coke, Rhys McCabe and Paul Corry have shown glimpses of their ability but they have yet to prove themselves at Championship level over a full season.

Extra class is also needed at the glory end of the pitch to bring the best out of Maguire, Lavery, Atdhe Nuhiu and Gary Madine.

If Wednesday fail to improve the spine of their team, another mid-table finish beckons.