How deep do Sheffield Wednesday’s cuts need to go? How deep before a mortal wound is inflicted on the club’s hopes for the new season?
The good news is it would have to go much deeper for that; hopefully it won’t. At the moment, with no disrespect to either Jack Hunt or Jordan Rhodes (or Glenn Loovens and Ross Wallace), it’s more of a flesh wound that can be healed by the size of the squad.
Although that’s really where the problem started, a failure to prune across many windows rather than trying to do it all in one.
Wednesday still have an enviable group and that should remain the case when the first competitive ball is kicked. But all the signs do point to more outs either alongside or ahead of significant ins.
As to how damaging, that really depends on who. Those the club would prefer to offload aren’t the ones attracting interest, unsurprisingly. We’re probably talking the likes of Almen Abdi, David Jones, Steven Fletcher and Marco Matias. The added difficulties are their substantial pay and still being contracted.
That’s created a dilemma regarding players nearing the end of their contracts who the Owls would prefer to keep. Barry Bannan, for instance. Normally, it would be time to negotiate an extended deal for a quality midfielder.
Yet it would be understandable if the hierarchy fights shy of this, having seen the general problem that having experienced, particularly older, players on long deals can create. Not that it wasn’t laudable in the first place to invest so much in the team and then tie up the assets. It’s just been about a lack of churn to balance much ambition. A small detail that has added up to a large one.
So, much as you’d like to proclaim that all the best players will be kept, you can’t be 100% certain. Offers can reach a point where it is foolish to refuse and, yes, every player (at every club) has a price.
The only logical conclusion on Bannan is that his future would depend on the above; not that there is any desire to do business in his case and others.
If there has to be a sacrifice of that sort then the one player Wednesday would wish to keep above all others is Fernando Forestieri.
Again, no absolute guarantee based on market forces, but this is one individual capable of turning an average team into a successful one. Crucially, he has two remaining years on contract and there is no sign of a big enough bid.
As for Rhodes, the loan to Norwich can be good for everyone, as previously discussed. Hunt? Well, a good player who has served the club well but £1.6m from Bristol City looks decent all round, albeit that Wednesday have shed some much-needed pace. Sam Winnall? I can’t see Sheffield United not being at least listened to if they followed up an interest.
It seems telling that the Owls appeared unable to afford a relatively modest price for centre back target Frederico Venancio. But it’s too early to say that the club won’t be able to recruit under Financial Fair Play rules or that they can’t improve the team by doing so.
Selling players is normal, it’s just that it’s all happening in one go following three years of virtually zero claw-back. A mistake but, in a sense, for the right reasons.