Sheffield Wednesday: Steve Bruce to Newcastle United chatter distracted by new boy Kadeem Harris
If Dejphon Chansiri expected a quiet afternoon at the football on Saturday, he would have been a little disappointed.
Sat in front of the Stocksbridge Park Steels press box with his two young sons, the Sheffield Wednesday owner smiled and signed autographs for the scores of Owls fans shuffling to and from their seats. Generous with his time, the Thai businessman smiled and greeted each and every one, refusing only to answer questions about the one name on everybody’s lips.
With Steve Bruce facing the music 55 miles away in Lincoln, it was over to Stephen Clemence and Lee Bullen to steer a strong half-Wednesday side through a sharpener at non-league Stocksbridge Park Steels. And that they did, running out 5-0 winners in an assured attacking display.
As the kick-off came and went, there was no sign of the Bruce chatter dying down. Rumours swirled around the ground: “A fan has approached the dug-out”, they said. “He’s been telling fans he’s staying.”
As the match entered the half-hour mark, though, that rumour mill was bulldozed. With the Stocksbridge defence retreating deeper and deeper, Wednesday were allowed to spray the ball around, taking plenty of touches, injecting pace into proceedings when the ball reached the new basis for all conversation: Kadeem Harris.
The new boy, with the young Stocksbridge left-back locked in his sights, danced and twirled his way through the non-league defence time and again.
One on occasion, turning a defender inside out not once but twice in one drop of the shoulder, the otherwise reserved Mr Chansiri was compelled to launch into applause, perhaps a moment of self-congratulation on a bit of business well done.
Far tougher tests he will face in a Wednesday shirt of course, but as first glimpses go, the 26-year-old provided enough excitement to prove any question marks posed in his free transfer from Cardiff were risks worth taking.
That said, a committed and otherwise well-organised Stocksbridge defence made the Championship outfit work hard for a 1-0 lead they took into half-time.
It came on 27 minutes from the stooping head of Sam Winnall, who together with Atdhe Nuhiu provided a handsome focal point for the enterprise of widemen Harris and Fernando Forestieri. Winnall’s chance was impressively directed past the increasingly busy Tom Crosby in the Steels goal from the cross of Morgan Fox.
Fox was another bright spark among a side looking sharp fresh off the plane from a ten-day warm weather training camp in Portugal. If Bruce’s parting shot is to leave Sheffield Wednesday fit, primed and ready for the rough and tumble of a Championship season, it is one the Hillsborough faithful should be thankful for.
Predictably, the second half opened up as the hosts tired, and after the crowd were treated to three well-taken goals in five minutes – courtesy of that man Harris, Forestieri and Nuhiu – the sense of Bruce-inflicted nervousness was lifted and replaced with a buzz of good feeling. These fixtures, a run-out for the pros that provides a season-making cash windfall for their non-league opposition, are for exactly that.
The final whistle ensured the last kick of the match was one of the finest – Joost van Aken the unlikely provider of a finish lifted over the head of the Stocksbridge keeper from a difficult angle outside the box.
Mr Chansiri left the ground a few minutes early to the applause of his adoring public, ducking and dodging the Bruce questions as he went.
And while Harris’ invention will be given closer scrutiny by Northampton, German sides and indeed Reading in the coming weeks, for an afternoon at least, there were few other Sheffield Wednesday employees worth worrying about.