Whenever Stuart Gray selects a side, it is with one single, common-sense purpose.
“I try not to pick a team to get beat; I pick a team to win a game,” says Sheffield Wednesday’s head coach.
Gray made two personnel alterations in the draw at Leeds United prior to the international break, bringing in Tom Lees and Kieran Lee at the expense of Lewis Buxton and Kamil Zayatte.
Given Lees has been a first-team regular since arriving from Leeds United in the summer, it was hardly a suprise to see him replace the injured Zayatte.
But Gray had a selection dilemma in the right-back position, with Buxton and Liam Palmer in contention for the spot. Buxton started against Manchester City, Cardiff City and Ipswich Town but Gray ultimately chose Palmer, culminating in Buxton dropping to the substitutes bench.
“At times in this job, you have to make difficult decisions,” Gray told The Star. “Lewis is a top professional. He knows that I felt the decision was right for the team.”
Although he was overlooked at Elland Road, Buxton will feature in Gray’s thoughts as the Owls prepare to play six Championship matches in the space of three weeks.
The 30-year-old’s versatility will be an asset to Wednesday, especially with Kamil Zayatte ruled out for six to eight weeks with a hamstring problem. As he demonstrated at Cardiff, Buxton can do a steady job at centre-half.
The Owls also have a left footed defensive option should Gray look to rest skipper Glenn Loovens or Lees over the next six matches. Claude Dielna is pressing hard for a first start and delivered a strong performance as a first-half replacement for Zayatte against Ipswich Town last month.
Gray said: “It takes time for a foreign player to settle into a new country. There is a settling in period.
“Claude’s fitness levels were probably not up to speed when he first arrived. He’s done lots of training over the last few weeks and now he needs game time.”