Dave Jones, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, has told Michail Antonio to “relax” ahead of tomorrow’s match.
Antonio, particularly at Hillsborough, has yet to hit his best form for the club this season and was one of several in the team who performed below par in last week’s draw at home against Yeovil.
The 23-year-old winger, has switched between his usual position on the right of midfield and a role up front as Jones has tried to find the right formation to bring Wednesday their first victory of the season.
It has led to some inconsistent performances by the former Reading player and a return of just one goal in his seven appearances.
However, Jones is confident that Antonio can come through the spell.
He said: “I think he’s one of the players who knows he can do better.
“Nobody means to go out on the pitch and not play well. Everybody wants to go out and play well.
“It annoys me sometimes when people say he’s not trying or not giving 100 per cent because why would you want to go in front of 20,000 people and not do well.
“Circumstances happen to anyone in sport that sometimes on that day, whatever you do, it just doesn’t quite come off or work for you.
“The mentality of a player is that you have to get on with it and you have to work through it and you have to keep chasing it down and do the right things.
“The more right things you do eventually it will all settle down. At the moment he’s one of a number of players who are fighting their game. He has to keep going.
“He scored the other day and he looked a totally different player. On Saturday everything he did just didn’t seem to work for him.
“You can’t hide anywhere; one thing Michail won’t do is hide. He just has to keep working at his weaknesses and making his strengths stronger by coming in here every day and doing the right things.”
Antonio is one of Wednesday’s most exciting players. On his day he’s difficult to stop but Jones says there will be inconsistency in his performance as he develops his game.
He said: “He’s still a young boy. That’s (the inconsistency)why he’s at Sheffield Wednesday and not at Manchester United or Arsenal because he’s not at that stage of his development.
“We’re trying to get him to that and we’re trying to get him there quicker.
“There’s lots of other circumstances and, without going into them all, people only see what they see on a Saturday. It’s what goes on during the week.
“At the moment he’s probably fighting his game. He needs to relax a little bit more, but within that still have the intensity and concentration that he has to do the right things.
“We’ll keep persevering with that because we know he’s a good player.”
After the Yeovil draw Jones talked about some of his team having a ‘fear factor’ of playing at Hillsborough that they don’t have on the road.
Yesterday he made clear that he players should relish the prospect of being professional footballers and called on them to embrace the pressures.
He said: “Whatever level you play at football there will be people watching you. It’s how you deal with certain pressures.
“There will be some young players who need to learn that and for some young players it doesn’t bother them.
“The fear factor, when I talk about the fear factor, I mean it’s when you’re just making sure the pass gets there.
“Sometimes you’re so deliberate in what you’re doing that it doesn’t. If you want to play well you have to play with a freedom.
“If you tense up because you’re worried about certain things then don’t go out on to the pitch. You have to be free of all fear or don’t be worried about making a mistake.
“You’re concerned if you keep making one after another because it means you’re playing safe and you can’t play safe football.
“You have to play what you see and play how you feel. You have to have a reaction to what you’re doing.
“If you go out worried that the crowd are going to boo you if you make a mistake then you’ll never play - you won’t play to the best of your ability.
“Only the player can do that though. We can help and guide them but you’re not inside their head. You can’t see what they see, we’ve not got a camera on their head.
“You can pass your knowledge on, though.
“Our situation is that we play with a freedom away but not at home. But that’s (at home) only one or two players - it’s not everybody.
“If things start to get tight and the crowd are having a go then that can spread throughout the team. There are lots of factors but no-one is having a go at anyone for having a go at the players because they’re entitled to do that.
“There are players who enjoy it. When you’re away you can have 20-30,000 people having a go at you. What are you going to do? Clamp up and not play well? It’s got to be where you enjoy playing.
“You have to play with a smile on your face, because if you don’t you’ll never play to the best of your abilities. You have to enjoy what you do.
“If you don’t enjoy playing football then I don’t know what you can do.”
Jones knows that a victory at St Andrew’s will put a smile on both the players and fans’ faces.
He said it’s time his team picked up their first three points: “Four draws is a good platform but you always want to get points on the board,” he said.“Sometimes it’s best to build.
“If you’re not losing it’s a good habit but you have to turn your draws into wins.”