Sheffield Wednesday: Struggling Owls hope inquest sparks a revival

Owls boss Stuart Gray
Owls boss Stuart Gray
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A team lacking confidence, self-belief and quality.

Sheffield Wednesday are slowly slipping down the Championship table, prompting head coach Stuart Gray to hold a frank clear-the-air meeting with his beleaguered players in the wake of their 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth in midweek.

Gray kept the players locked in the dressing room for nearly an hour after they fired a blank for the fourth time in their last five league outings.

Everything that could go wrong did as the Owls meekly surrendered to the new leaders.

Fans are starting to question Gray’s tactics and team selection following the Owls’ nine-match winless run. It is undoubtedly the first tricky spell of Gray’s reign.

He offered no excuses for their short-comings but felt the harsh words needed to be said as 14th-placed Wednesday look to stop the rot when they entertain Rotherham United on Saturday.

“We had a good discussion,” said Gray. “It was constructive.

“I opened it up to the floor and asked the players for their views. I can’t have anyone being negative.

“The players had the chance to do their talking out there but that was not good enough against Bournemouth.”

Gray described Tuesday’s display as “the most disappointing” since succeeding Dave Jones, initially on a caretaker basis, last December.

“That was not an acceptable performance against a very good side,” he said. “Our problem at the moment is performing at Hillsborough and we’ve got to get out of it.”

The side’s form on home soil is a major worry as they prepare to take on the Millers. Since March 25, Wednesday have won just three times in their own backyard, including a Capital One Cup victory over Notts County.

Gray said: “I have spoken to the staff who have been here a long time and the home form seems to have been a problem for a long while.

“Hillsborough is a fantastic place to play your football in front of fantastic supporters so there is no real explanation. I want them to enjoy it and use it as a strength.”

As good a side as Bournemouth are, Gray criticised his players for giving the in-form Cherries too much time on the ball to dictate proceedings.

He said: “That was probably the worst I have felt stood in a technical area watching a Sheffield Wednesday team losing a game of football. More often than not, when we have lost, we have always had a chance or been in it and the fans can’t question the players desire or hunger.

“We let Bournemouth play around us. They are good players but you’ve got to ask questions of good players and you’ve got to put tackles in and be in their faces. We lost in every department.”