Early-bird Owls ahead of Blades in race for signings

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FORMER Wednesday defender Mark Smith, who has also been a coach at both Sheffield clubs, believes the Owls have gained a big advantage by securing promotion through one of the two automatic positions.

Smith says the extra time that Wednesday manager Dave Jones will have to negotiate with players to strengthen his squad at Hillsborough is beneficial compared to Blades boss Danny Wilson having to wait until after the play-off final to find out what division United are playing in next season.

He said: “Dave Jones and Milan Mandaric will be looking to sign players as quickly as possible and by knowing where they are they’re able to pick from the full pool of available talent.

“If you’re waiting to see which league you’ll be in then you come into the off season when a lot of business has already been done. You’re left to pick up what’s remaining.”

Smith, who now runs a coaching school for children aged between six and 11 at Thorncliffe in Chapeltown, says Wednesday will be determined not to let the momentum of their promotion fall away. “There’s been false dawns before, so while Mandaric and Jones will want to consolidate, they also want to push on.

“The Owls players will benefit from the extra break they’ve had but if they probably can’t wait to get back to training,” he added.