Sheffield Wednesday’s turnaround has given Steve Bruce some very tough decisions to make this summer - Alan Biggs’ Owls Column
Steve Bruce has brilliantly smoothed the way ahead for Sheffield Wednesday. Yet his impact has made the most pressing part of the process a lot tougher in some respects.
Reshaping the squad within profitability and sustainability regulations, scaling it down, making it younger and fresher ... all of this was going to be necessary regardless of how Bruce fared early in his tenure.
But it’s a sign of progress that this now looks less far less straightforward and considerably more complex; welcome nonetheless.
If you’d asked any fan in mid-season how many of this summer’s 10 out-of-contract players would be jettisoned, the answer would have been “most.”
It’s possible to flip that around now. Maybe “most” will stay - or at least be offered new terms.
Several have rekindled a genuine claim. But the key to the future will be the level of salaries offered. Reduced terms seems likely for most, if not all.
It would appear the Owls, who may come under pressure to sell an asset or two, cannot afford to keep carrying a raft of £30,000 to £40,000-a-week earners. And several are among those whose future is being deliberated.
Of those looking odds-on departees I can now only think of three, for reasons that don’t need further elaboration - Almen Abdi, David Jones and Daniel Pudil (who has actually done sterling work over the years).
Youngster Fraser Preston’s future is harder to call.
That leaves six senior players pushing hard.
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One in particular, goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, has completely reversed his fortunes. He is the deserved and undisputed number one again - and it would be a major blow to his many fans if his contract was not renewed.
Liam Palmer is perhaps an even bigger shoe-in, having totally transformed his standing with outstanding consistency in either full-back position under Bruce.
Gary Hooper? From looking like being washed away on a tide of injury woes, he’s now back and showing his pedigree. Put it this way, if you were satisfied of Hooper’s fitness you would not be offloading a striker of this calibre.
Kieran Lee. Ditto in terms of raiding from midfield - assuming his comeback to training and an Under 23 appearance can be extended to the vital next step. Hope so, great pro.
That leaves George Boyd and Marco Matias. Neither can be considered automatic choices but have performed well under Bruce, proving willing and adaptable.
Throw in Matias’s midweek brace against Nottingham Forest, keeping the season alive, and the brilliant strike from Boyd, who played for Bruce at Hull, in the 3-0 win.
So a range of decisions that appeared clear-cut are far from that - against a background of some cutbacks being inevitable.
And all of them pending while Wednesday continue the most improbable of pushes for the top six.