New Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce's in-tray: what the Owls chief must tackle in the short term

Steve Bruce will officially take charge of Sheffield Wednesday on February 1
Steve Bruce will officially take charge of Sheffield Wednesday on February 1
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Promotion expert Steve Bruce was named the Owls' new manager on Wednesday afternoon.

Bruce will take charge from February 1, with his trusted assistant Steve Agnew in charge on a caretaker basis.

Owls writer Dom Howson takes a look at the issues Bruce needs to resolve in the short term at Hillsborough.

Decide on your No 1 and stick with them

Wednesday have plenty of options in the goalkeeping department. It is an area that the Owls have been well-stocked in for some time with Westwood, Cameron Dawson and Joe Wildsmith.

Dawson was given the nod in the first half of the campaign and acquitted himself well.

Was Dawson perfect? No. The academy graduate would be the first to admit he made a few mistakes.

But was Dawson always given bags of cover and protection by Wednesday's outfield players? Certainly not.

Dawson was left horribly exposed at times and former boss Jos Luhukay did him no favours by constantly chopping and changing the players in front of him and the team's shape.

With the Owls leaking goals with alarming regularity, Bullen took Dawson out of the firing line and turned to experienced shot-stopper Westood against Preston. Westwood helped steady the ship and get Wednesday back on track.

Keiren Westwood and Adam Reach

Keiren Westwood and Adam Reach

But there are serious doubts over Westwood's long-term future at Hillsborough. Westwood is 34 and his present contract is set to expire in the summer. Given Westwood is one of the club's top earners and Wednesday are battling to stay within the constraints of Profitability and Sustainability (P&S) regulations, it remains unclear whether Westwood will be offered a new deal.

As Bruce looks to build for the future, will he stick with Westwood or put his faith in Dawson? Things may become a little clearer on the goalkeeping issue this weekend.

Stiffen up the defence

Only rock-bottom Ipswich Town and Preston North End have conceded more goals than Wednesday this season. The Owls have found clean sheets hard to come and their porous defence has been breached 42 times.

Cameron Dawson is vying with Keiren Westwood for the No 1 spot

Cameron Dawson is vying with Keiren Westwood for the No 1 spot

But there was a big improvement on the defensive front in Lee Bullen's fruitful stint as caretaker boss. Bullen brought Keiren Westwood in from the cold and it was noticeable that he fielded the same back four in his four matches in charge. His back-to-basics approach paid off as Wednesday recorded two shut outs and conceded just two goals.

Bullen has given Bruce and long-time coaching associates Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence a platform to build on.

Some big decisions on personnel will also have to be taken in the coming months. Westwood, a fans' favourite, becomes a free agent in the summer while Chelsea loanee Michael Hector, voted the Owls' player of the month for December, is due to return to his parent club at the end of the season.

Wheel and deal in the transfer window

Don't be fooled into thinking Bruce will have no say into Wednesday's recruitment drive in January. Bruce has good contacts in the game and will be involved in the decision-making process.

Although Wednesday are working with restrictions due to P&S rules, The Star understands there are funds available for Bruce to bring in some new faces. Chairman Dejphon Chansiri is targeting a late play-off push and is counting on Bruce coming in and making an instant impact.

Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood

Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood

However, there are gaping holes in the Owls squad which need filling. Defensive reinforcements are understood to feature the top of Bruce's priority list.

But Wednesday should not just be looking to buy players. There needs to be incomings and outgoings.

A big reason why the Owls have stagnated over the last 18 months is that there has been a lack of churn in the squad. As a result of stockpiling players, Wednesday's wage bill has risen steeply.

Their best players: midfield duo Barry Bannan and Adam Reach are likely to attract interest over the coming weeks, with rival clubs well aware of the club's P&S constraints. If a big-money bid comes in, Wednesday may have to consider selling one of their prized assets to balance the books.