Sheffield Wednesday: Owls boss braced for tough start

Stuart Gray
Stuart Gray
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Stuart Gray, the Owls head coach, believes his side face a difficult start to the season.

Sheffield Wednesday travel to Brighton and Hove Albion on the opening day of the new Championship campaign, which begins on August 9.

After the Seagulls showdown, the Owls welcome play-off finalists Derby County and Millwall to Hillsborough.

Gray’s troops complete a gruelling August schedule with a trip to Middlesbrough and a home meeting with Nottingham Forest.

Gray told The Star: “Brighton and Derby finished in the top six in the Championship last season. As opening fixtures go, they don’t come any tougher than Brighton away and Derby at home.

“They will be good tests for us but then again there are 44 games after that we will have to contend with. We need to start better than what we have done in the last two seasons.”

In their two tussles with Brighton last term, Wednesday claimed four points, drawing at the Amex Stadium and then winning the reverse fixture thanks to a last-minute winner by loan striker Leon Best.

However, they failed to score a goal or pick up a single point against Derby.

The Owls boss wishes the fixture computer could have handed them a home match first up.

Gray, who has been assured by chairman Milan Mandaric he will get a “proper chance” to prove his credentials under new owner Hafiz Mammadov, said: “It is disappointing for the Wednesday fans that we’ve got a long away trip on the opening day but it is better to go to Brighton in August rather than December.

“It will be difficult at Brighton. They always prove difficult opposition, especially on their own patch.

“They showed last season that they could bounce back from a disappointment as they finished in the play-offs again.

“Derby were desperately unfortunate in the play-off final and they will still be scratching their heads wondering how they didn’t go up.”

With Wednesday’s pre-season friendlies finalised, Gray wants to bring in several reinforcements to increase competition for places.

He said: “Our focus is on getting everything right at this stage and to strengthen the team. Everyone knows that’s what we have to do - put a team together that can succeed in this division and improve on what we achieved last season.”