Video: '˜This is not normal' - Sheffield Wednesday's injury crisis adds to Jos Luhukay's problems
To say it has been a challenging start to life as Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay would be a huge understatement.
The Owls have been hit by an unprecedented injury crisis which has hindered Luhukay’s ability to reverse their fortunes since taking over the reins from Carlos Carvalhal at the beginning of January.
Sixteen players are currently unavailable for first-team duty. Any team at this level would miss players of the calibre of Keiren Westwood, Tom Lees, Sam Hutchinson, Kieran Lee, Barry Bannan, Gary Hooper. Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri.
Their crippling injury list has undeniably made Luhukay’s job even harder and forced him to promote youth.
“It is not normal to have so many players unavailable,” admitted Luhukay. “It’s a complex problem.
“In the short time that I have been here, I have seen a lot of things, what is making the problem.
“But I now must handle the situation.”
To his credit, Luhukay is not using their injury problems as an excuse.
He said: “I don’t think negatives, I think positively, we try to get the best team for every game.
“We have a problem with the (injuries in the) squad, but we must not make more problems.
“We want to win every game and we have made good progress in the last seven weeks.”
It is a delicate balancing act right now for Luhukay. He is trying his hardest to manage the resources at his disposal the best he can but Wednesday need a positive result or two to maintain their mid-table position.
Luhukay was heavily criticised after the midweek trip to Millwall. His team selection incensed a large proportion of the fan-base.
Supporters were left fuming after Luhukay decided to name Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu on the bench and not play a recognised striker in his starting eleven. There was no Daniel Pudil or Adam Reach in the starting XI either.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
Ross Wallace was deployed as a false nine, with youngster Jack Stobbs, making his first start of the campaign, and George Boyd tasked to support him in attack.
Against all odds, Wednesday’s patched up team led at half-time through Joey Pelupessy’s exquisite strike. But the Lions came-from-behind to record a 2-1 victory.
An animated Luhukay was forced to spend the first part of his Villa pre-match press call again defending the team he picked at The Den.
Luhukay said: “It’s easy to explain (the team selection) when we have a very intensive programme. We play on Saturday against Aston Villa - one of the top teams in the league - Tuesday, Swansea in the FA Cup, Bristol City, and three days later Ipswich Town.
“I must protect my players. The players have played a lot of games, but not every player can play again after three days and give their best performance. That’s why I keep an eye on my players, every day in training. We know we have a lot of problems with injured players, our squad is very small, so I must have control over my team.
“The players who are now playing - before I came hadn’t played much - so it’s new for them, and I must be careful.
“At this moment, we have 16 players are not available.
“In the next two weeks, we have some tough games and I have to look who can play. I must be very careful.”
Next up for the Owls is tomorrow’s Hillsborough encounter with third-placed Aston Villa. It is followed by back-to-back away clashes against Swansea (cup) and Bristol City.
Wednesday, who are eight points above the relegation zone, round off a busy couple of weeks with home fixtures versus Ipswich Town and Bolton Wanderers.
He said: “We are playing five or six games in 14 days. We have 16 players unavailable. I would have more problems if every game the same players played.”
Although Luhukay has only overseen one win from his seven league matches, he has, by and large, succeeded in instilling discipline and organisation into the side. Six cleans is an impressive return. Another one tomorrow would be just what the doctor ordered.