Sheffield Wednesday: Top clubs eye Owls targets

Chris Kirkland is set to return to face Leeds
Chris Kirkland is set to return to face Leeds
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Wednesday’s position in the table is no deterrent to Stephen McPhail as he aims to stay at the club.

But Stuart Gray fears than the prospect of a relegation battle has placed the Owls at a disadvantage in the January market.

For some of the players wanted by the Owls have also been on the radar of top-six Championship outfits.

Gray knows that targets who are being allowed to go out on loan well may prefer a promotion-chasing environment to one at the bottom end of the table, though the Owls have risen from the bottom three.

Even so he has been hoping to borrow two, possibly three players in time for tomorrow’s game against Leeds, or, failing that, in time for the game against Burnley a week tomorrow.

The match against Macclesfield on Tuesday is irrelevant because the loan new boys would not be allowed to play in the FA Cup replay.

With no prospect of returns next week for players such as Lewis Buxton, Giles Cokes, Kamil Zayatte, Martin Taylor and long-term absentee Anthony Gardner, Gray has also had to add Paul Corry to the injured list.

Corry suffered a back spasm in the under 21s’ game at Scunthorpe on Tuesday and this was one of the reasons, along with Michail Antonio breaking down, why Caolan Lavery was recalled from his loan at Plymouth, with the squad getting short on numbers.

“We’re down to the bare bones with 16 players unless we can get two or three loans in,” said Gray.

“The most important thing is we will have 11 lads ready for Saturday and going for the three points.

“Some of the top six teams in our league are looking at the same players we’re looking at. That’s what we’re competing with.

“It’s not just one or two targets we’ve got: we’ve got A, B and C targets, but the main aim is the A targets.”

Gray knows also that agents may prefer top-six clubs for their clients.

“We’re trying to get players in,” he said. “We’ve had yesses from clubs; now we’re wanting yesses from the players; the ones we have contacted have several options.”

McPhail, in the squad to face his former club tomorrow, has a short-term contract that ends after the Burnley game. He said: “I’ve had a bit of interest from elsewhere but I’m enjoying it here and want to help the club push up the league.” But, looking for a contract to the end of the season, he admits that agreement on a deal is not a formality and cites the example of Roger Johnson, who was set to re-sign but was lured to West Ham:

“Until it’s sorted, anything can happen. But I want to stay - I’ve made that clear to Stuart. If we can do it, let’s get it done.”

Gray said: “There’s no substitute for Stephen’s experience. He’s a top footballer on the ball, and a top professional who trains every day like it’s his last training session.

“We’re trying to thrash out a deal with him. We really want him to stay. There are always going to be clubs interested in top quality players.”

Gray can count on the experience of Chris Kirkland tomorrow after he was rested at Macclesfield, following the clean sheet against Blackpool, and Connor Wickham is set to return after being ineligible for the FA Cup.

The boss has also praised Atdhe Nuhiu for battling on despite his shoulder injury: “We’re asking Atdhe to turn out every week with injections in his shoulder and with it strapped up. Credit to him - he wants to be out there.

“If we put in the sort of performance we gave against Blackpool, I have every confidence we’ll get three points.”

Gray expects his position to be discusssed with Milan Mandaric after the game and says he does not know if it will be affected by the result.

“I just get on with getting the team ready for the game.”