There can be no question that Stuart Gray is entering a critical phase of his Sheffield Wednesday reign. Rightly or wrongly, it’s a fact of life that managers who go ten games without a win come under scrutiny, especially at one of the biggest clubs outside the Premier League.
But whether it’s actually fair to put the focus on Gray is another matter entirely. Supporters are justifiably unhappy with current form and flailing around in all directions when it comes to the blame game.
Many are clearly unsure where to point the finger and, when the picture is so confused, the only sensible conclusion is that there are grey areas. Or Gray ones come to that.
Had you pinpointed this date on the calendar before a ball was kicked and placed the Owls 13th in the table, I guess most would have shrugged acceptance.
Let’s be honest, it’s about where you and I expected them to be, isn’t it?
That’s why I don’t think Gray should be under immediate pressure for his job, not that this would necessarily be on anyone’s agenda right now. His record since last year’s remarkable rescue act is still in credit – 20 wins against 18 defeats across 53 games.
This, Gray’s first full season, was always going to be even more challenging on a lower-half budget. The team’s start was far better than expected. It raised hopes but the dip has hardly been a complete surprise. The most realistic target must be to hold on to that safe middle ground.
But that, of course, is a hard sell, understandably, for a club that pulled in nearly 27,000 for the depressing derby stalemate against Rotherham. Fans want creativity and excitement. There is little of either right now.
Then there are those taking pot shots at the owner, a natural reflex but a man can only do so much. Milan Mandaric saved the club and is breaking no promises as he never pledged big spending, stressing from day one that he would stand aside for someone who could.
So he is stuck with it, just as Gray is limited by a squad that, considering the lack of attacking options on the bench, is screaming out for match-winning quality.
It means you can only talk about a collective responsibility, however boring that may sound. And that includes the players. Although generally they are giving their all within their capabilities, the more talented ones certainly need to be braver on the ball.
Overall, it’s about working together because often NO-ONE is directly to blame, much as it suits some to have a scapegoat.
But last season’s experience shows that Wednesday would not have survived without the spark injected by the likes of Connor Wickham and Matty Fryatt. Remember, too, that they had the explosive input of Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson.
Somehow Wednesday need to strengthen in similar fashion - because the warning is clear. That five point cushion on the bottom three is little or nothing without an improvement in form.