Sheffield Wednesday midfielder: "I'm loving the fight for my place in the side"
Having had to wait for an opportunity to show what he can do in the Sheffield Wednesday starting line-up, midfield man of the moment Massimo Luongo is not ready to step back into the Hillsborough shadows.
The summer signing from QPR, who has scored two goals in as many home games heading into Saturday’s derby clash with Leeds United, spent the opening weeks of his Owls career watching from the sidelines as Barry Bannan, Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee set up camp in the side’s engine room.
But relentless performances in Carabao Cup fixtures and eye-catching substitute cameos forced Garry Monk to hand him an opportunity, one that he has snatched with both hands.
“The competition is there and I haven't had that competition for a long time,” he told The Star.
“Everyone takes it hard when you're not starting but you look at that midfield and no matter who goes out it a very strong midfield. You've just got to prove your skills when you can and keep pushing.”
The statistics bear out the Australian’s influence on the side. In Championship football this season he has the highest percentage success rate of passes in the opposition’s half and creates a chance every 42 minutes. To put that into context, Bannan and Hutchinson, though they sit deeper, create one chance every 127 minutes. Lee contributes one chance every 217.
Owls boss Garry Monk praised Luongo’s impact since he came into the side last month and admitted he has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the middle of midfield.
“You’ve had Joey [Pelupessy] come in, Kieran’s come in and done fantastic. It’s probably one of the strongest areas of the squad, the midfield area, it’s really competitive.
“It’s been difficult actually, some of the decisions you have to make, when you come in you have to make a quick decision but I’ve been very pleased with that area, we’ve got a good combination there of different skill sets that can affect different games.
“Overall I’ve been very pleased with the midfielders, they’ve done a very good job both defensively and offensively, but there’s plenty more to come as well.”
Luongo, a vision of quiet confidence, agrees. The 27-year-old relishes the challenge of training and admits life at the Owls’ Middlewood Road training ground can get fierce.
Asked about the dynamic between the midfield competition, he said: “It's so competitive. We don't find out the team until late but in training you can kind of see who's playing. You're always looking at who's team you're on. You're thinking 'am I playing with Baz? Am I on Fletcher's team?’
“You can see it between us in training. I don’t want him to get one over on me in training and I know they're thinking the same about me. You don’t want to make a mistake or let someone run past me. It's about making affecting the manager's decision every moment you can and we all do that.”