Why Jordan Thorniley is staking a claim to be Sheffield Wednesday’s first choice centre-back
If there is one positive to come from the Jos Luhukay era at Hillsborough, it is surely Jordan Thorniley’s progress in the last year.
As he hoofed Millwall’s best chance of the game off the line in Tuesday’s Championship clash at The Den, the 22-year-old marked exactly 13 months to the day since he was named as an unused substitute in Luhukay’s first match as Owls boss.
Since that match against Sheffield United, Thorniley was handed his debut by the Dutchman and has proven himself a more than capable deputy in Wednesday captain Tom Lees’ absence.
But now the left-footed defender is making a case to be more than a back-up option to new manager Steve Bruce.
The Everton academy graduate has 21 Owls appearances to his name this season and looked to have fallen behind the first choice centre-back pairing of Lees and Chelsea loanee Michael Hector since Luhukay’s departure.
However Lees’ shin injury, sustained in a training session last Friday, has handed the perfect opening for Thorniley to step up and impress his new boss.
Two assured performances against Reading and Millwall alongside Hector, Palmer and Fox in the Owls back line have not gone unnoticed by his manager.
After playing a vital role in protecting Wednesday’s clean sheet record with that goal-line clearance at The Den, Thorniley is at the front of Bruce’s mind and could cause a selection headache away from the conundrum of the overcrowded ranks of offensive players.
As Bruce has remarked himself: "He has played very, very well. He is tough, resilient and supporters will go a long with him.
“He has come into the team and given us that little bit of balance with his left foot and he has certainly done enough to stay in it.
"They are the nicest selections to have of them all and I'm sure the supporters and everybody will be delighted that a young one is standing up to it and it is great to see.
"He gives everything he has got and the supporters will enjoy watching him. I'm delighted with how he has played.”
With Lees’ return looking more likely against Rotherham United this weekend, Bruce will have to think long and hard about where Thorniley fits in his defensive plans.
But with Michael Hector’s loan only running until end of the season, Thorniley might be the long-term solution to join Lees at centre-back.
And if there’s one thing he’s proven in the last two matches, it’s that he can step up and competently fill that gap with ease.