DAVE Jones regards this season as having been his toughest for many years.
The man who led Stockport and Wolves to promotion and Cardiff to the brink of the Premier League, stabilised Southampton and took Wednesday up has found himself in a toil at the bottom end of the table for almost all the campaign.
He will only sit back with some satisfaction after the Owls’ safety has been confirmed.
“It’s been a long season,” he says ahead of the final five games.
“It’s probably been my hardest for many years, because of the circumstances; we’ve come up, tried to stay in this division and tried to rebuild.
“If we’re safe then I can take that satisfaction; that will last for 30 seconds, then we build again.”
He puts the Owls’ rocky first half of the season down to a combination of factors: the difficulty of competitng with clubs who have far greater spending power is one.
“It can be finance,” he says. “It can be players coming up and having to adapt to this level.
“I think when we got promted, some people got carried away, when you consider what’s been spent in this division and what some of the wage bills are like. We have to compete with that in different way.
“That takes a bit of time, and you need stability - then you’ve got your base and you can grow.
“I also think we gave teams too much respect at the beginning and didn’t play our game. Since the start, we have learned a lot, as a group of people.”
Jones has also admitted that when he has had to rely significantly on loans and free transfers, there has been an element of trial and error.
But a haul of 38 points from the last 20 games has put the club high in the Championship form table and is testimony to how he and the reshaped team have begun to get it right.
They have overtaken today’s opponents, Leeds, whose build-up to the Elland Road derby has been supervised by caretaker manager Neil Redfearn.
He said: “I’ve stressed to the lads all week that they’ve got to train well and train hard, because it’s a massive game.”
They have overtaken today’s opponents, Leeds, whose build-up to the derby has been supervised by caretaker manager Neil Redfearn, ahead of yesterday’s appointment of Brian McDermott on a three-year contract. McDermott’s assistant is Nigel Gibbs, who worked with him at Reading.