Sheffield Wednesday: Gray wants brightness for Owls

Top scorer Matty Fryatt has gone back to Hull after his loan
Top scorer Matty Fryatt has gone back to Hull after his loan
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Stuart Gray, in the background for so long as Dave Jones’ right-hand man, has been plunged into a problem-solving role ahead of tonight’s clash with Championship leaders Leicester.

It is the third time that Gray has had a role to play after Jones’ departure. The other clubs involved were Southampton and Wolves.

His task has been made harder as Hull have rejected the Owls’ request to keep Matty Fryatt for a further month.

Also, Lewis Buxton (groin) went off in the defeat at Blackpool and Michail Antonio (knee) missed it.

Reda Johnson too was sidelined, owing to an unspecified problem, and the club have had to wait for international clearance from the Spanish FA to arrive before the signing of ex-Zaragoza centre-half Glenn Loovens could be ratified.

Fryatt is the Owls’ top scorer with his four goals, and may well have played tonight, though he was left out last Saturday for tactical reasons, for a tough away game. Jones fielded Connor Wickham as a loan central striker in a 4-5-1 system.

If Gray goes 4-4-2, which

would be Jones’ choice for a home match, then Wickham could be partnered by Atdhe Nuhiu or Jermaine Johnson.

Hull manager Steve Bruce intends to include Fryatt in his squad for tomorrow’s game against Arsenal.

The Tigers chief said: “Matty has done exactly what we wanted: gone out on loan and scored a few goals.

“He’s done well at Wednesday, so it’s time for him to come back here for a while. He’ll be in the squad for the Arsenal game and he’s got a chance of figuring.”

Gray will be looking for a brighter outcome tonight than the one at Blackpool, a 2-0 result that was the final straw for Milan Mandaric.

The chairman rates Gray as an experienced man who is capable of holding the fort.

Indeed the 53-year-old has served in a variety of roles at clubs of different stature.

A Yorkshireman who was born in the holiday resort of Withernsea, he became a player with Forest, Barnsley, Villa and Southampton.

His first coaching job was with Southampton; he then worked at Wolves, rejoined Saints and was promoted by Jones first to reserve team coach then first team coach.

After Jones left Saints, Gray remained as a coach and stayed on for a while under Glenn Hoddle.

A similar thing happened at Molineux: Jones departed, Gray was put in temporary charge, and he stayed on as assistant manager as Hoddle once again succeeded Jones.

Gray’s time at Southampton also included a spell a manager, after Hoddle went to Spurs.

The Yorkshire also coached at Villa and Crystal Palace.

He was boss of Northampton for two and a half years, was appointed by Brian Laws as Burnley first-team coach and had a spell as Clarets caretaker manager after Laws was sacked.

Gray’s next club were Portsmouth, where he again he was caretaker boss for a time, reverting to coach after Michael Appleton took charge.

Early in 2012, Gray was one of many members of staff made redundant by Pompey because of their financial problems.

His arrival at Hillsborough, last December, was followed by an upturn in results.

Jones joked a couple of times back then that if his pal wanted to take credit when the team won he would also have to take the “credit” if they lost.

While Gray has now been handed the caretaker job, having previously been first-team coach, assistant manager Paul Wilkinson has followed Jones out of the club.

Development coach Lee Bullen will be assisting Gray, who said: “I was delighted to be asked by the chairman to step in and I am fully committed to try and get us that win against Leicester.

“Obviously, I am disappointed with what has happened with the manager and Paul Wilkinson, but I’ve been in the game long enough to know that these things happen.

“I’ve had a meeting with the players just to explain that we can’t control what’s happening off the pitch. The only thing we can control is on the pitch.

“Training was upbeat and positive and we are focused on organising the team for the game.

“The pleasing thing is that we have a game straight away after Saturday and I know the boys will be at it and looking for a good performance.

“Lee will be helping out and I am grateful for his assistance. He has great experience and that can only be a positive thing.

“We will be completely prepared, the game is on our patch and everyone at the club knows how important the support of the fans will be for us.

“The team have to give the supporters something to shout about and with our energy and enthusiasm, hopefully we can do that and get a good result.”

Wednesday Under 21s lost 3-1 to Birmingham yesterday at Blues’ training ground. Khalil Lambin scored.