Owls midfielder Giles Coke admits he owes a debt of gratitude to Millwall manager Ian Holloway.
As a teenager, Coke was on Queens Park Rangers’ books. But just over a decade ago, Holloway, then in charge of the Hoops, released him, leaving the Londoner’s dream of becoming a professional footballer hanging by a thread.
However, Coke resurrected his career with non-league Kingstonian and spent two years at Mansfield Town before linking up with Northampton Town, where he worked with current Sheffield Wednesday boss Stuart Gray.
He went on to move north of the border and represent Motherwell before joining Wednesday on a free transfer in 2010.
Coke said it was a “real body blow” being shown the door by QPR but insists he has no axe to grind with Holloway.
“He [Holloway] released me at QPR,” he said. “I was a youngster then so I wasn’t really involved that much with him. I haven’t got any qualms with that. These things happen in football. If anything, it made me a better player.”
With Kieran Lee (groin) sidelined, Coke is poised to be recalled to the starting line-up against Holloway’s Millwall team tonight.
“I’ve not stayed in contact with Ian,” said the 28-year-old, who got on the score-sheet and was sent off the last time Millwall and Wednesday played each other. “When I see him, I will say hello.
“He’s a lot different to the gaffer [Stuart Gray]. He’s changed and so have I. I’m sure he is a lot different now and the Millwall players do enjoy him as a manager.
“Everyone talks highly about him. He got Blackpool and Crystal Palace promoted to the Premier League so he has proven he’s a top manager at this level. I’m sure it will be a big test for us.”
Gray is looking forward to pitting his wits against Holloway.
“I’ve come up against Ian many times,” he said. “I will have a glass of beer with him afterwards. Ian is a colourful character.
“We are probably two different types of people in the technical area. I tend to focus on what my team are doing whereas Ian will be more hyperactive.”
After scoring the winner on the opening day of the campaign at Brighton and Hove Albion, Coke is determined to keep weighing in with goals.
He said: “I’m enjoying my football. My goals are to play as many games and to be as consistent as I can be. I’m sure the rest will take care of itself.
“I want to score more goals. It’s always nice to score and I think midfielders need to chip in as well as the defenders. You can’t just expect strikers to score all the goals.”
Wednesday entertain Millwall seeking to secure a first league win in their own backyard during the 2014/15 season and record a fourth clean sheet on the trot.
Coke said: “We have played really well, had a good pre-season and we have proven that by starting well in the first few games.
“We look stronger and fitter this season.
“I’ve been here a few years now and I would like to think this is definitely the best squad I’ve played with. We’ve got a great team spirit, the boys really get on and it’s showing in our results.
“We look really solid as a team. The whole back four look good. If we can defend well, we know we have got goals in the team.”