Newly-appointed Sheffield Wednesday head coach Stuart Gray is urging defender Oguchi Onyewu to stay grounded as the Owls prepare to take on fellow strugglers Millwall tonight.
The much-travelled American centre-half claimed his first ever goal in English football in Wednesday’s impressive 2-1 win at Rochdale in the FA Cup last weekend.
In Gray’s eyes, Onyewu was one of the team’s stand-out performers at Spotland, having looked “rusty” on his debut against Burnley, as the Owls set-up a fifth-round encounter with Charlton Athletic next month.
But Wednesday, currently on an eight-match unbeaten run, return to league action tonight knowing they are only three places and two points above the Championship relegation zone.
Gray is adamant there is still more to come from Onyewu, who has played 68 times for his country.
He commented: “Guchi looked a bit rusty against Burnley but I thought he was outstanding on Saturday. I think when the fans are chanting ‘USA USA’ you may be winning them over! Long may it continue.
“It was only Guchi’s second game. It is a learning curve for him. He’s got the goal. He’s got the ambition. He wants to get into the national team for the World Cup. I’ve got a hungry player. He knows if he doesn’t perform he won’t be on that plane going to Brazil.”
There were fears the Owls would struggle to replace Roger Johnson after he left earlier this month.
But Gray is encouraged by the partnership Onyewu and Glenn Loovens have struck up and claims they will improve as a pairing the more matches they play together.
“We were conceding goals for fun at the start of the season so we look a little bit tighter,”
he said. “When we went down to 10 men on Satur
day, the ball kept coming into our box and all I kept seeing was Guchi’s or Loovens’ head going on it. That’s what you want from centre-backs.”
Due to Wednesday’s cup exploits, two of their Championship fixtures have been rearranged. Gray’s men will now host Derby County on Tuesday, February 18, kick-off 7.45pm. A week later, they will entertain QPR.