Palmer’s big chance

Owls: Sheffield Wednesday news and reports.
Owls: Sheffield Wednesday news and reports.
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For a team on a rousing upsurge, a few shadows hover over Hillsborough ahead of the holiday programme.

The January transfer window looms and with it the result of Gary Megson’s bid to keep Sheffield Wednesday’s loan contingent, Ben Marshall chief among them.

But problems can bring opportunities. Other than the fleetingly brilliant but too often erratic Jermaine Johnson, who do Wednesday have to take over Marshall’s mantle if the worst happens and the highly influential Stoke winger departs in the New Year?

Here’s one thought: Step forward Liam Palmer?

That’s among reasons why manager Megson is urging Palmer: Stop being a “promising” youngster and start reproducing the “scintillating” he shows in training.

Palmer has been pushing for a place for some time but hasn’t figured for a few games. His manager’s message is to take his next opportunity and make the sort of impact that will make it impossible to ignore him.

If that sounds harsh, it is a measure of the 20-year-old’s talent and Megson’s faith in him that the Owls boss feels able to raise his expectations.

So far the versatile Palmer, a pacy and tricky player who has been largely seen on the right of midfield but can operate elsewhere, has made just five starts this season and seven appearances from the bench. But Megson told the Telegraph: “We’ve got to get a lot more from Liam in games and I know it’s there.

“He can be scintillating in training, absolutely top drawer. That’s a good sign - as long as a player can transfer it into matches.

“A young player can only be called ‘promising’ for so long. We need Liam to kick on now and he’s capable of doing it.”

Maybe Palmer will get another opportunity in the holiday games - at Walsall on Tuesday with a second away trip to Preston to follow.

The wider picture is that Wednesday are facing a high degree of uncertainty in the January window that Megson is determined won’t unduly affect their promotion drive and his will shows signs of prevailing.

Ideally, Wednesday will force the issue somehow and keep Marshall. Certainly, he is high priority, even higher after reports linking him with Huddersfield where Wednesday might counter by renewing an interest in winger Gary Roberts.

It will have been noted that Roberts was the main creator for Jordan Rhodes in last weekend’s astonishing 4-4 draw at Hillsborough.

What it all amounts to is trying to keep as many as possible of the six loanees already at the club - a list headed by Marshall, Danny Batth and keeper Stephen Bywater, whose spell from Derby has now ended.

But the stronger the position the team are in, the more the incentive for owner Milan Mandaric, who has pledged to back Megson, to commit more funds towards ensuring a successful outcome.

James O’Connor’s departure for America is a setback for Megson who will hope that it will at least free up his budget a little after the midfielder’s claims that he was not offered a contract extension.

O’Connor had his detractors but won deserved admiration as a total team player and club ambassador who, in his gritty and honest style, contributed much to the Owls.

Wednesday were last night on the verge of extending Wolves’ defender Danny Batth’s loan to the end of the season in a positive start to mid-season reinforcement plans.