Stuart Gray is predicting a bright future for Liam Palmer - if the Owls star continues to turn his weaknesses into strengths.
Palmer, voted Player of the Season last year, regards midfield as his best position but has been a revelation since being switched to right-back.
With Lewis Buxton unlikely to shake off a knee injury before the international break, Palmer is set to retain his place in the starting line-up.
Gray claims the Worksop-born player has got “huge potential” and is pleased with his development. But the Sheffield Wednesday chief wants Palmer to add more strings to his bow. He has previously indicated he thinks the 22-year-old can improve his heading and called for him to contribute more goals.
Speaking at Wednesday’s pre-match press briefing yesterday, Gray told The Star: “You know when you name Liam on the teamsheet what he will give you. He showed his qualities the other night against Notts County by going forward. The combination play between Joe Mattock and Jacques Maghoma on the left was excellent and it was the same with Liam and Chris Maguire on the right.
“Modern day full-backs have to get forward and I’ve got two full-backs in Liam and Joe who can keep getting up and down the pitch.
“Liam has got weaknesses and he knows what they are. We are working every day on them. But he’s a top professional and wants to do well. He wants to improve and get better. He’s a lad who enjoys putting on a Sheffield Wednesday shirt.
“Liam can wear several hats for us. He’s got that personality.
“If I asked Liam to play at left-back or left-wing, he would give everything for the cause. He’s got huge potential. He’s a level headed lad. He knows he hasn’t made it yet. Once he gets to 300 or 400 league games by the age of 26 or 27 then maybe then you can say he’s made it.”
As Wednesday prepare to lock horns with Derby County tomorrow, Gray has warned his new-look centre-back pairing of Tom Lees and Glenn Loovens, who have blossomed in their opening two fixtures, to beware of Rams striker Chris Martin.
“At the moment, Lees and Loovens are playing very well,” said Gray. “They look like they’ve played 50 odd games together. They read the game well and keep it simple.
“They dovetail very well, are good organisers and talkers. Only time will tell but in the last two games they look very good bargains. They have not put a foot wrong.
“It will be a different challenge for them on Saturday. Martin scored 20 plus goals last season. He is a strong, physical presence so if we can keep him quiet they will have done a good job. It will be a good test for them.”
Given Martin is poised to lead the line for Derby, Leon Best will probably have settle for a place on the substitutes bench on his return to Hillsborough. The Republic of Ireland international impressed on loan at Wednesday last season, hitting five goals in 16 appearances.
The Owls were linked with Best in the summer but, ultimately, he ended up joining Derby on a season-long loan deal.
“People were always going to connect us with Leon because he was available,” he said. “But I just felt that we had Attey [Atdhe Nuhiu] and Gary Madine so I felt like I needed a different type of striker and that’s why I brought Stevie May in.
“Whether Leon plays or not I don’t know. I’m sure he will want to come here and prove something.”
Keiren Westwood, Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee are all expected to be restored to the starting line-up tomorrow, having been rested in midweek. Stevie May could make his debut and left-side player Jeremy Helan is back in the first-team picture following a spell on the sidelines.
Gray said: “You can only pick 11 but you need a squad of players. You need that competition.
“If I leave anyone out, I don’t want them to be happy to be left out. Yeah, I will have a few sulkers when I pick a team but I pick a team to win a game of football not to please everybody.”
The Owls boss has not ruled out midfield duo Rhys McCabe or Paul Corry going out on loan to speed up their football education.
Gray said: “They haven’t played much football. My strongest area is probably midfield. It might be one that I consider. Paul had an opportunity a couple of times last season to go out on loan. For some reason, he decided not to. Everybody wants to play on a Saturday.”