Sheffield Wednesday: Owls seek quality over quantity

Wednesday want to re-sign Sam Hutchinson on a permanent basis.
Wednesday want to re-sign Sam Hutchinson on a permanent basis.
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He has yet to meet new owner Hafiz Mammadov and finalise his playing budget, but Owls head coach Stuart Gray knows what he wants this summer.

Mammadov completed his takeover, believed to be in the region of £40m, of Sheffield Wednesday earlier this month.

The buy-out is subject to Football League ratification and Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric expects the deal to be confirmed over the next “couple of weeks”.

As soon as the takeover has been approved, Azerbaijani businessman Mammadov is set to increase the Owls’ wage bill and help Gray create a competitive Championship squad.

Mandaric says Gray can sign up to seven new players in his quest to turn them into promotion contenders.

“We are probably looking at a better quality of player than before,” Gray told The Star. “We have still got to get them through the door and nine times out of 10 you are looking at the same players as other clubs.

“But I want players who can shoot us up the league, give us a bit more quality and play at a more consistent level. I want them to bring the best out of the other players.

“They have got to be the right personality and coming here for the right reasons. They have to be 100 per cent committed to the cause, be prepared to work hard and looking to improve.”

One of Gray’s top transfer targets is free agent Sam Hutchinson. The former Chelsea man, who caught the eye while on loan with Wednesday last season, can be deployed in defence or midfield.

Gray said: “Sam [Hutchinson] is a quality player and he did well for us. The thing is, like with all the loan players we have signed, we have put them in the shop window and other managers will have seen what Sam can do.

“But I am confident, if we can get the takeover completed, we will get Sam through the door.”

Mammadov, the founder of the Baghlan Group, which specialises in oil, gas, construction and transportation, also owns Azerbaijan side FC Baku and French top-flight club RC Lens. There is a strong possibility players from Mammadov’s other clubs will move to South Yorkshire.

“If there’s two or three decent players who Lens are offering us, so be it,” said Gray. “It’s to Sheffield Wednesday’s, mine and the team’s advantage.”

As part of the rebuilding process, Gray is looking at recruiting young, hungry players as he bids to reduce the average age of the squad. He has hinted he is likely to promote a couple of youngsters from their development squad to boost their numbers.

“I want to have a squad that’s competitive,” he said. “I want to be able to say I’ve got two left-backs, two-right-backs, three or four centre-backs, because you’ve got to have competition.

“We probably got found out towards the end of last season, because our squad was a bit thin, and had players that were not in the best of form and were carrying knocks.

“I also want to bring the average age of the squad down. Last season probably just caught up with us, with too many 30-plus players, because you have to go Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday.”

Gray also remains confident goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, defenders Glenn Loovens, Oguchi Onyewu and midfielder Jose Semedo will pen new deals.