Sheffield Wednesday: Gray unfazed over City challenge

Owls boss Stuart Gray
Owls boss Stuart Gray
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Stuart Gray, the Owls head coach, says his team will not have an inferiority complex when they travel to Premier League big boys Manchester City tomorrow night.

The Sheffield Wednesday boss is under no illusions at the size of the task facing the Championship club but is backing his players to enjoy the third round Capital One Cup tie.

But Gray, who attended City’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday, told The Star: “It’s one of them games where nobody gives us a chance.

“We can go there, be relaxed and play with confidence. If we were a side who were struggling for confidence and playing poorly, then I would be concerned but the game can’t come quick enough for the players.

“We will enjoy the occasion. The pressure is off when you aren’t playing league games. The players will be composed.

“The most important thing is the team. It’s not about individuals. If anybody plays for themselves, they will end up sat next to me in the dugout. We will need a team performance against City.”

Gray, who will be able to call upon Royston Drenthe and Hallam Hope after the loan duo were granted permission to play by their parent clubs yesterday, has paid tribute to City boss Manuel Pellegrini, saying: “He’s done a fantastic job. It’s his first job in England and you’ve got to give him credit for winning the Premier League title and Capital One Cup last season.

“Sometimes it’s about managing the egos at that level. He’s got world class players who expect to be playing.”

Whatever side City field tomorrow, Gray knows it will be a tough test for his in-form team.

He said: “I’m not in control of what team they will select. They will all be internationals.

“It’s a great opportunity for my players to test themselves against world class players. They’ve got a quality squad but I will have our team ready to give them a good game.

“When you talk about City, you are always talking about finishing in the top four. Having seen them on Monday, they will be there or thereabouts.

“It’s a great game for us. I think we will play with a freedom, be composed and will play with 100 per cent commitment.

“It’s one game that the players are desperately looking forward to. I’ve got many lads who are chomping at the bit and wanting to play. We will cause them problems.”

What frustrated Gray is that City can stockpile players.

“I think Chelsea have got 20 players out on loan at the moment; it just shows what the big clubs can do,” he said.

“City are always going to be involved in lots of competition so they need that strength in depth but the disappointing thing is the amount of foreign players who have come in and stopped the British players from playing.

“I think there was a stat in a Champions League game last week that said out of all the teams who featured in the competition, only 17 British boys featured so it’s affecting the national team too.”

He fears for the long-term future of the English game.

“I think when City played against Bayern Munich last week that Joe Hart was the only Englishman involved,” he said. “That’s the way football is at the moment.

“The Championship isn’t as bad as that. I’m just a little disappointed for the younger lads who feel as if they aren’t getting an opportunity but maybe that’s to our benefit at Sheffield Wednesday where we can get players on loan. We saw that with Sam Hutchinson last season.”

There is a strong possibility Gray will rotate his squad, given that Wednesday have three league fixtures still to play before the next international break.

Injuries have robbed Gray of midfield pair Kieran Lee and Sam Hutchinson but Chris Kirkland, Jeremy Helan, against his former club, and Gary Madine are all pushing for starts. Gray has rubbished speculation linking them with Sunderland midfielder Liam Bridcutt.

Wednesday’s development squad, meanwhile, drew 1-1 at Brentford yesterday. Matt Penney was on target for the visitors.