Sheffield Wednesday: Owls kids, that first win and what a difference a day makes to Jos

The contrast was like night and day.

Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 5:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 5:10 pm
Owls boss Jos Luhukay

On the eve of Sheffield Wednesday's clash with Millwall, manager Jos Luhukay, still seeking his first Championship victory of the season, had cut a glum, ill-at-ease, at times monosyllabic figure at the pre-match press conference.

After a 2-1 Hillsborough triumph over the Lions on Wednesday evening had lifted the Owls to 17th in the table and set them up for Saturday's home encounter with winless Ipswich Town, it was a different Jos talking to the media.

Jos Luhukay

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Now he was smiling, passionate and communicative, as vibrant and committed as his team had been as they had deservedly seen off opposition that had lost only two of their previous 23 second-tier encounters.

Barry Bannan had been a scorer and scorching, while a clutch of youngsters chosen ahead of senior pros like Fernando Forestieri and Sam Hutchinson weren't that far behind their midfield master.

Suddenly, the future and Luhukay look brighter. The Town test can't come soon enough.

"I hope this win will do a lot for confidence," Luhukay said. "Everyone in my team can enjoy this and be happy. But we have only have only two days to recover and then it is a new game. 

Owls youngster Matt Penney in action against Millwall

"We must give the same type of performance as today. Only then can you win games. The games in the Championship, you must always come to them 100 per cent. It is very hard and very tough. 

"Two days is not so much but we must hopefully find a good way and must have trust and confidence in this new game."

Bannan, who sublimely volleyed Wednesday in front against Millwall, was the Pied Piper, with Academy kids centre-half Jordan Thorniley, left-back Matt Penney and midfielder Fraser Preston dancing in his wake in a team showing five changes from Sunday's dismal 2-0 defeat at Brentford.

"I am a manager and I look always at my team and who can give 100 per cent performances. It is important we can trust our  Academy players," Luhukay said.

"Jordan Thorniley plays for me and has a fantastic game. Matt Penney starts for the first time, so does Fraser Preston. It is not so easy for these boys when you see our position in the league. It gives maybe a little bit more pressure. 

"But I didn't see in the performances of these three boys that they have problems with the pressure. They weren't afraid to play. Matt and Jordan controlled the defending. Jordan wins most of his one-on-ones on the ground and in the air.'

Preston passes forward and runs forward with equal abandon. There's a bit of vision about the teenager who also has the stamina to chase after what he's created and be on hand for the return ball.

Understandably, he tightened up in the later stages of his home debut and had to be replaced but by then his point had been well made: like Thorniley and Penney, he deserves more game-time.

"Preston had cramp," Luhukay smiled. "The boy is 19 years old and it was his first time from the beginning. It's not the same tempo, with all respect to our under-23s. 

"With experience, he will give his energy over the 90 minutes. It's not a problem. Within two days, he will have recovered from this game.

"The young players are important. During the season, the team needs refreshing. It is important for the team and me personally that we have youngsters who can make progress and take their chance. Today was a day when we had three youngsters start. In the next weeks and months we will see that often."

The talk turned to Bannan's brilliance in a team display full of character and Luhukay was enthused and engaged again.

"Yes, I got a good view of his goal. It was fantastic," he said. "I think in one or two hours when I'm at home I will look back on it again!

"The team today comes closer to what I expect from them. When you have periods in a game when you don't play good football, you must still give the fans passion. They must see it in your body language. 

"You must be 100 per cent working for a good result and performance. I have seen that today from the first to the last minute. That what I expect. Not more, not less."

Striker Lucas Joao, who this week committed himself to the club until 2021, could add to the Owls' options this weekend following a groin injury.

"It's (the new contract) is positive for Lucas and also Sheffield Wednesday," Luhukay said.

"Hopefully he will be back for Saturday. He has trained for two days now with the team after eight to 10 days of not training with the team."

Another reason to be cheerful in a week when, after a difficult start to the season, the happiness returned to Hillsborough.