SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Strength in numbers

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DAVE Jones has never shied away from the fact he wants competition for places at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Owls manager believes their strength in depth will come under the microscope after the international break.

Wednesday, sixth in the standings after collecting seven points from their opening four Championship outings, play seven games in just over three weeks, starting with a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion on Friday night.

Jones’ men then have a Hillsborough double-header with Huddersfield Town, who beat Sheffield United on penalties in the League One play-off final last May, and Bolton Wanderers, who were relegated from the Premier League last season.

Wednesday travel to Southampton in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, September 25, which is quickly followed by Championship clashes at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley.

A Yorkshire derby with Hull City brings the gruelling schedule to a close.

Before the August transfer deadline, Jones significantly beefed up his squad, bringing in Michail Antonio, a revelation during their promotion push last season, on a permanent basis, Danny Mayor, Rodri on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona B, Paul Corry, Jay Bothroyd and Martin Taylor.

Mayor came on as a late substitute at Crystal Palace, who condemned Jones to his first defeat since becoming Owls boss in March, but Corry, Bothroyd and Taylor are still waiting to make their debuts.

Other big positives for Jones is that defenders Anthony Gardner and Reda Johnson are nearing first-team returns.

Gardner and Johnson are back in training, having recovered from hamstring and ankle problems respectively.

Jones has two players for every position.

Stephen Bywater is waiting in the wings should Chris Kirkland’s form dip in between the sticks. At the back, Kieran Lee and Joe Mattock have yet to make contributions since moving to Hillsborough.

In midfield, Chris Lines is edging closer to full fitness following a groin injury and Jones has multiple options at his disposal up front.

Chris O’Grady has impressed this season, hitting three goals in five appearances, and is vying for a starting role with Rodri, Gary Madine, Bothroyd and Chris Maguire.

Slovenian international Nejc Pecnik can also be deployed as a forward, as he demonstrated on the opening day of the season at Derby County.

“It is very important you have a good squad because I have gone down the route of where you have basically got a small group of players and it is very difficult to keep everybody fit and away from fatigue,” Jones told The Star.

He stressed: “We are a work in progress.

We have a good bunch of players who have earned the right to be in the division.

“They are going to have to work even harder to stay in it and that’s what we are trying to do.”