Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Sam Winnall must seize second Owls chance
After eight long, frustrating months, Sam Winnall could make his long-awaited comeback next week.
It is possible the striker may get a run-out in the Under-23 match against Crewe Alexandra should he take part in full training over the next couple of days and prove his fitness to the Owls' medical experts.
It is a big boost to Wednesday that Winnall is closing in on a return to action but don't think for one minute that manager Jos Luhukay will rush him straight back into the first-team fold. Under Luhukay, long-term injury absentees normally have to play a string of development matches to put themselves in contention for a place in his senior squad.
And the reality is that Winnall has been out a lengthy period. He missed out on pre-season training. He is playing catch up so people should not expect too much too soon from him.
But the next couple of weeks represent an opportunity for Winnall to impress Luhukay and force his way into the Dutchman's long-term plans. It will be Winnall's first chance to work with Luhukay and show him what he has to offer and what he can bring to the team.
You could argue this is a much-needed fresh start for Winnall. For whatever reason, it didn't work out for him when Carlos Carvalhal was in charge. Although Carvalhal brought Winnall to the club, the Portuguese chief refused to put his faith and trust in him. Winnall was never given an extended run in the team.Â
Wednesday's strategy of stock-piling strikers in 2017 failed to pay off as they fell short in the Championship play-offs.
Winnall, understandably, grew frustrated at his lack of game time and asked to leave the club. He was eventually allowed to join Derby County on loan where he notched six goals in 17 league outings (Only six appearances came as a starter).
Now Winnall is back at his parent club and he faces a battle to secure a starting spot as Wednesday still have an abundance of forwards on their books. But Winnall, a determined, ambitious individual, has not returned to Hillsborough to make up the numbers.
"Competition up top is high at Wednesday with the amount of quality strikers we've got and the old management had clear favourites too," he said.
"But I'm not one to be happy on a bench. When I'm available, I want to play every minute of every game."
Winnall's attitude is spot on and you get the sense he is hungry toÂ make up for lost time.
The smart money is on the 27-year-old getting a chance to establish himself under Luhukay, whoÂ has shown in the past a willingness to give players on the fringes a chance to stake a claim. It will then be up to Winnall to grasp his opportunity.