Video: Sheffield Wednesday need to be '˜ruthless' again
As a centre-back during his nomadic playing career, Lee Bullen prided himself on helping teams keep clean sheets.
Now the Scot is aiming to shore up Sheffield Wednesday’s leaky backline.
The Owls produced a defensive horror-show in their embarrassing home humbling to struggling Burton Albion on New Year’s Day. Wednesday conceded three soft goals and have only recorded five shut outs all season.
At his press briefing yesterday, Bullen stressed the responsibility to shore things up at the back rests with the whole team.
The former Owls skipper told The Star: “We have to err on the side of caution and make sure we get back to being ruthless and keeping clean sheets.
“I think we have kept around 17 clean sheets in the last couple of years. I think this year we are still in single figures which is not where we want to be. We need to be pushing on and getting back to that stage.
“Your defending starts with your strikers. They have to put that shift in and not allow opposition defenders time on the ball to pick out passes. Again, that’s part of a unit. We have to defend properly from the front. The full eleven have to defend together.”
Bullen confirmed Wednesday have held “two or three team meetings” in the last few days to discuss their shortcomings.
“All it is is little things around the place where we feel things can be tidied up a little bit,” he said.
“Part of that comes with a previous manager leaving so there’s a little bit of uncertainty in players’ minds. There are maybe things they were doing before that they are not doing now.
“We had to address that this morning (Thursday) and the players addressed it themselves and said ‘Yeah, you’re right things have slackened off a little bit which should not have done.’
“Myself and the staff picked them up on that and said ‘listen come on, the minimum we need to get back to is the professional side of things with regards to contacting us if you’ve got a knock, contacting medical staff or coaching staff if you are struggling and not going to be able to train one morning’.
“It’s a case of making sure they know exactly what they are doing until that point where a new coach is appointed. We have to do things in a professional manner which they have been used to in the past.”
Fans turned on the team after the Burton debacle, chanting ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ towards the end.
Bullen said: “The frustrating thing for me over the last two to three weeks is the fact that people are questioning their mental toughness, fitness and aggression when the chips are down.
“And I think that always gets questioned when results are not going your way.
“I know these players and I think they would admit there are certain aspects of a spirit which have maybe dropped off from where it was in the last couple of seasons and we are trying to address that and get it back.
“Part of that is maybe down to the injuries that we have had and players are maybe being tested physically whereas in the past Carlos [Carvalhal] often rotated the players at certain times.
“At the moment, we have got two centre-backs available whereas we used to have the four who we could rotate.
“And when you are tired and there are four games over the Christmas period, I think that’s where your concentration and mental toughness has to be at its highest because physically you are going to be a little more tired than normal.
“You’ve seen Pep Guardiola and Steve Bruce talk about it recently. It’s a tough period for players but if you’ve got a decent squad where you can continuously rotate, it’s going to be a lot more helpful. We’ve not really had that opportunity to do that.
“The players have proved over the last couple of years they have got that mental toughness. They can handle that and they have to get back to those levels they have shown in the past. They have to forget about things that have gone on in the past.”