How Atdhe Nuhiu has been firing out his best Sheffield Wednesday form for Jos Luhukay
When Atdhe Nuhiu signed a two-and-a-half year extension to his contract at Sheffield Wednesday in January 2016 it raised a few eyebrows.
While the big striker was no doubt something of a cult figure amongst Owls fans, it was felt by many at that stage that the Hillsborough revolution being overseen by Dejphon Chansiri and Carlos Carvalhal had already begun to outgrow Nuhiu.
There can be no argument over the dedication that Nuhiu shows when he pulls on a Wednesday shirt; he gives his all in each and every game and there has always been the sense that he genuinely loves the club.
However, it has to be said that certainly back then, there were severe limitations in his abilities and if Wednesday were to have ambitions reaching towards promotion to the top flight, then Nuhiu was beneath the standard needed to fulfil that goal.
It was hinted at by Carvalhal back then that the, would be, Kosovo international’s personality was as important as anything else. His positivity, supreme likability and laid-back nature made him a popular figure in the changing room and the then head coach had hoped to harness this type of spirit (see Jose Semedo as another example) through difficult periods.
In latter times, Carvalhal also used Nuhiu as his Plan B - when times get tough, get it up to Atdhe. And indeed, his awkward aerial presence saw Nuhiu thrown in almost as an extra defender when Carvalhal sought to kill games off.
As a striker, though, it was never felt that the 28 year old would again manage to nail down a regular start in the side, as he was under Stuart Gray.
Gray got a semi-decent amount of goals out of Nuhiu - 17 in 78 appearances - but back then, with Milan Mandaric trying to sell up and understandably unwilling to shell out too much for reinforcements, Gray had little choice but to stick with the man fans call ‘Big Dave’.
Fast forward to the present day and through accident rather than design, Nuhiu is a pivotal figure in current boss Jos Luhukay’s side.
Indeed, the Dutchman has managed to become, up to now, the man who has got the most out of Nuhiu in terms of his goal return.
Due to the unavailablity of Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri, Lucas Joao and Nuhiu are the main men up front and they are, albeit modestly in terms of goals, digging in admirably.
Nuhiu’s brace against Leeds United at the weekend took his tally to six under Luhukay, these coming in 16 appearances. That means the man in charge at present is presiding over Nuhiu’s best goals-per-game ratio of any manager since he moved to Hillsborough.
Lee Bullen didn’t get any in his time in temporary charge while Carvalhal benefitted from a meagre one in 13.6 games.
The return under Gray is a fairly impressive one in 4.5, while Dave Jones, who brought Nuhiu to South Yorkshire got two from 12 games from Nuhiu - including a debut strike against QPR - before being sacked.
It’s clear that the striker, who heads away on international duty this week with Kosovo to take on Madagascar and Burkina Faso in a double-header in Paris, is thriving as a result of the responsibility being placed on him, and over the weekend, his team mates were lining up to praise Nuhiu.
“I thought Atdhe was brilliant up top,” said Sam Hutchinson. “Atdhe worked really hard, he bullied their centre-halves - they couldn’t handle him and I’m pleased for him that he got the two goals.”
Skipper Tom Lees added after the two goal haul at Elland Road: “We were probably a bit fortunate but Atdhe who I thought was brilliant, a real handful, got us out of the situation.”
And the manager, too, didn’t hold back in hailing the derby hero: ““Atdhe made the difference but the team worked very hard and we’re very happy with the win. He’s a very important player to the team. Atdhe always works unbelievably hard and he took his goals well. He’s getting the rewards for his efforts.”