Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: Do the Owls have a 20 goal-a-season striker in their ranks to fire them to Premier League?

The accepted wisdom is that scoring a goal is the hardest thing to do in football.

By Dom Howson
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019, 13:44

It is strikers, invariably, that cost the most and get paid the big bucks to find the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Speaking earlier this year, Middlesbrough centre-forward Britt Assombalonga, a £15m record buy from Nottingham Forest in July 2017, said: “Scoring goals is the hardest job in football. Definitely.

“Goals win games and so you are under pressure to deliver but people are trying to stop you every minute you are on the pitch.

“Defenders try to bully you and push you and kick you and make it hard for you to do your job. It’s tough out there.

“A lot of people don’t realise how tough it is. You are trying your best and it comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s not easy.”

Given Assombalonga is a fully paid-up member of the striker's union, it is hardly a great surprise he believes he has the toughest role on the pitch.

Owls forward Steven Fletcher

But Wednesday boss Steve Bruce, a distinguished centre-half during his playing days, agrees with the Boro man.

"You’re only ever as good as your strikers and that’s why usually they cost the most money," acknowledged Bruce.

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As we all know, Bruce has plenty of attackers to choose from at Hillsborough. Too many, in fact.

Wednesday's attack contributed 32 of their 60 Championship goals during the 2018/19 season. Not bad but not great.

Steven Fletcher lead the way in the scoring charts, netting 11 times, while Lucas Joao was the only other player to crack double figures.

By stark contrast, Teemu Pukki plundered 29 goals for champions Norwich City, Billy Sharp struck 23 times as Sheffield United secured the second automatic promotion berth and Tammy Abraham has played an integral part in Aston Villa's charge to the play-off final. Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez also scored 20-plus goals to help West Bromwich Albion qualify for the end-of-season knockout tournament.

The likes of Andre Gray, Ross McCormack, Abel Hernández, Matej Vydra, Lewis Grabban, Chris Wood and Glenn Murray have also delivered similar numbers post 2015.

If you look at the Owls by comparison, Fernando Forestieri scooped a string of player of the year awards after his 15-goal haul in their run to Wembley three years ago. Forestieri's tally remains the best by a Wednesday player in the Dejphon Chansiri era.

There are few divisions as physically and mentally challenging as the Championship - but teams who possess a proven, prolific goal-scorer in their ranks have a distinct advantage in the battle for honours. If nothing else, it certainly helps make them more competitive.

The Owls will be hoping the return of Jordan Rhodes from his loan spell at Norwich City provides them with extra firepower in this department (Although it remains to be seen whether Rhodes features in Bruce's long-term plans).

Some will argue, justifiably, that more goals are required across the board to turn Wednesday into a genuine force next season. It is a very fair, valid point. They can't solely rely on their strikeforce to do the business. The defence and midfield must do their bit to give them a fighting chance of featuring in the promotion shake-up.

But the strikers will do the bulk of the work and Wednesday need at least one of their expensively assembled forward line to contribute close to 20 goals next term.