Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday column: Garry Monk has plenty of squad restructuring to work out
Among the many variables facing Sheffield Wednesday in the immediate future, one certainty stands absolutely clear.
A major restructuring job awaits. Both on and off the field; in terms of overhauling the squad and the approach to doing that.
Which might seem strange to say considering Wednesday are bang in form and looking good for the top-six ahead of Bristol City’s visit on Sunday.
But it points to quality leadership from Garry Monk and faith in him to shape the future as he stands strong at a time of great duress.
With 11 players heading out of contract and the squad as a whole diminishing in market value, this, I believe, calls for football management in the traditional, older-fashioned sense.
Fortunately, in Monk, Wednesday have a manager capable of being entrusted with the task.
It will be hugely challenging, whatever the outcome of the EFL charges and whichever division the Owls find themselves next season.
All the evidence suggests that Monk, in working successfully with a group he has been unable to change at this point, is the right pathfinder.
He has consolidated a strong team mentality, reaching to the higher end of its capacity. Okay, we all know about the lost points. But who put Wednesday above that narrow band between sixth and mid-table?
I didn’t. Currently they look capable of exceeding that.
Clearly, too much change in January (should it be allowed) could compromise that prospect. It’s mostly steady as you go, barring an opportunity to cash in (cut losses) on any high-earner on the fringe of the squad.
I believe the Owls should take what they can get in some cases (Fernando Forestieri, for instance), not wait for contracts to wind down. Jordan Rhodes? A much harder question to answer after his sensational “comeback” hat-trick at Forest and dependent on offers from reawakened interest.
Monk’s trick has been to keep players on board, competing hard, while all know the future is highly uncertain.
Not so much for the manager, however. Regardless of any other faults, this ownership commendably backs its bosses.
And has picked three out of four good ones.
Monk deserves that long-term support and I doubt there is any risk of it not being forthcoming.
On the flip side, a potentially crippling points deduction was not in the brochure when he took the job. But, for all the difficulties ahead, few clubs at this level are more attractive.
Providing it is recognised on all sides, including supporters, that there is no quick fix.
Issues extend beyond clearing, for better or worse, the financial fair play hurdle. Wednesday’s training ground badly needs an upgrade; development of young players and a pathway to the team is another priority.
More immediately, the core group of 20 players from which Monk has mostly selected has an average age of 28-29. Six players who started the play-off final defeat to Hull in 2016 remain high profile at Hillsborough.
This is almost unheard of in the fast-paced football environment where sides who just miss out inevitably undergo change.
Instead of dictating that in measured fashion, Wednesday are having it forced upon them. All the more reason for entrusting Monk’s skill and networking as a football professional to tackle it.