‘Our standards have to be higher next year’ – Sheffield Wednesday star calls for big improvement after rollercoaster season
Mid-table mediocrity is not what Steve Bruce signed up for when he agreed to take on the Sheffield Wednesday job earlier this year.
As both a player and manager, Bruce is used to competing for major honours.
But despite a strong second half to the 2018/19 season, Bruce's troops fell short in their play-off quest and were forced to settle for a 12th-placed finish.
Bruce is acutely aware a major rebuild is required to turn Wednesday into genuine promotion candidates next season.
Tom Lees, the Owls captain, said: "We finished 12th after a very poor first half of the season and we cannot afford to do that again.
"Standards have got to be higher next year.
"We know that we have to do it for an entire season not just a couple of months next year if we want to be successful.
"So, all in all, it is a big summer for the club in lots of ways. We will be looking forward to seeing what happens."
Failure is not an option for Bruce, who has proved adept at leading clubs to promotion to the top flight, leading both Birmingham City and Hull City to the Premier League on two occasions each. He also guided Aston Villa to the Championship play-off final last year.
Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter
"He [Bruce] knows what it takes in this league," said Lees. "Since he has come in, he has been trying to get us on board with what he wants and I think we have bought into that.
"It is always difficult when you come in half way through the season because when you have got games Tuesday-Saturday and in the week you don’t get time to change things. You certainly don’t get as much time on the training pitch as you might want but now we have got the whole summer to really get on board with what he wants.
"From the start at pre-season, we will have a good amount of time to prepare and, obviously with players coming in and out, he will be able to shape things the way that he wants. He has got time now to really put his stamp on it over the summer."
The defender expects pre-season to be a hard slog.
Lees said: "We have been told already that it is going to be tough so we will have to come back in shape.
"We know that it is going to be hard; the trip to Portugal is going to be very difficult and I’m sure we will be fit and ready. Probably fitter than we have been in the time that I can remember being here so I think that will stand us in good stead."
Bruce intends to sign young, hungry players as part of his summer revamp.
Lees said: "It will be a big change in the profile of the squad on the whole. There may be a bit younger, more legs.
"He (Bruce) knows the league well and knows a lot of players. He has a lot of contacts so we have just got to hope that he brings in the right faces and the boys that are still here in the summer have got to step up as well."