Sheffield Wednesday: Foxes point way for Owls

Stuart Gray has done a brilliant job
Stuart Gray has done a brilliant job
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Stuart Gray’s leave of absence to attend his son’s wedding made me think of Bill Shankly’s famous quote, writes Paul Thompson.

He said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Well, Shankly was a great manager and a great character who came out with some terrific lines but I can’t agree with him on this point.

If Gray had no alternative and it was a case of missing his son’s wedding - a once-in-a-lifetime occasion - or the Watford match then it was a no-brainer.

He and the Owls can’t have imagined when his leave of absence was agreed that he would be manager by the time the big day arrived!

Wednesday might have played just as badly if he had been on the touchline. There were certainly off days against Bournemouth, Charlton in the FA Cup, Yeovil and Doncaster.

But the blips have been exceptions. The Owls were never going to shine on every single day after he took over and on the whole he has done a brilliant job.

Tonight up against an outfit who are heading for the Premier League, Wednesday may get a close-up look at the qualities that it takes to get into that position.

The haul under Gray is 37 points from 23 games. If that ratio applied over a whole season then on the evidence of recent seasons the total of 74 would be good enough for the play-offs, though not the automatic promotion that Leicester are almost certain to secure.

It may also be a time to reflect on where the Owls were when Gray took over: next to bottom, six points adrift of the safety zone, with no away wins and no clean sheets.

It is a feat for them to have recovered to such an extent that they now have a realistic chance of finishing in the top half of the table.

With 48 points now, Gray would also like to surpass last season’s final tally of 58 - but that may be a stiff task. Points for all the teams in the bottom half have been harder to come by this season than they were a year ago.

What strikes me about the last two months is that the Owls have gone 14 games without a draw. Even a point would be a very respectable outcome tonight.