Irvine wins numbers game

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SHEFFIELD Wednesday's ability to bring in new players this month has eased any worries that Alan Irvine may have had about the club's capacity to cope with a fixture pile-up.

Postponements and FA Cup progress mean that it is going to be a busy 2011.

For example, the Owls already face 14 games in February and March, and their workload will increase if they earn the expected home win against the league's bottom club, Hereford, in the fourth round of the cup.

Irvine would have been left wondering how his small squad was going to stand up to that sort of test, in which injuries could derail the promotion campaign.

But he has already been able to bring in defenders Reda Johnson and Michael Morrison, who are both set for home debuts against Charlton tomorrow in a probably unchanged side, and takes comfort that, thanks to Milan Mandaric, the squad should become even stronger this month.

"If you build a strong squad this month, then maybe you'll be able to cope better," he said.

"You'll get injuries and suspensions; with the squad as it was, I'd have been a bit more worried, with the kind of pile-up we face.

"But as has been proved already this season, we can't really cope with any more than two or three injuries."

Giles Coke rejoined full training yesterday after a cartilage operation. Right-backs Jon Otsemobor and Lewis Buxton remain out.

Irvine expects to make full use of an expanded squad between now and the end of the season, and has given further insight into the current efforts to make new signings.

He now thinks a deal for Motherwell defender Mark Reynolds is unlikely: "The clubs have not been able to agree a fee. I thought it was a good opportunity to get a young yet experienced player; but our valuation and Motherwell's just haven't matched."

He responded to speculation about Birmingham striker Kevin Phillips by saying: "I wouldn't have thought that was a starter."

On another potential target, Stoke's ex-United midfield player Michael Tonge, he commented: "We had Michael on loan at Preston and he did a good job. He's a good player - but I haven't made any inquiries."

Rotherham's 17-goal-striker Adam Le Fondre is another who has been suggested as a possible target. "I haven't made an inquiry," responded Irvine.

He has already denied a move for Brighton striker Glenn Murray and dropped interest in LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle - who joined German club Ingolstadt - after a work-permit problem.

Irvine avoids volunteering the names of targets as he wants to avoid alerting competitors.

"We've made a lot of phone calls. We've done a lot of research on different players. At the moment there is nothing that is likely to happen. But there are possibilities, and you never quite know when things are going to drop into place.

"Bringing in new players is a complex business.In the past, a manager phoned another manager and the deal was done over the phone in a matter of minutes.

"Now, it takes days, weeks or even longer to conclude the negotiations, and that gives an opportunity to other clubs to get involved, of which we have already had experience."

He admitted there have been some inquires about Wednesday players: "But at the moment we're building a squad, and getting people out is not on our agenda."


Teams: OWLS (possible): Weaver. M Morrison, Purse, R Johnson, Jones, Sedgwick, O'Connor, Miller, Teale, Morrison, Mellor (4-4-2).

ADDICKS (possible): Elliot, Francis, Doherty, Fry, Dailly, Jackson, Semedo, Wagstaff, Racon, McCormack, Anyinsah (4-4-2).

The Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorks): Handled the Owls' 5-2 FA Cup win at Southport, when there were no cards. His last game was Barnsley's 2-1 home win against Coventry on January 3.

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