Sheffield Wednesday: Fans give team special send-off

Fans watch from the North Stand as the team train
Fans watch from the North Stand as the team train
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It is a sight never seen before: Wednesday fans in Hillsborough’s North Stand two days before the start of a season to watch the final stages of preparation.

Around 1,500 took up the invitation to attend. As the squad practised crossing and finishing, did some ballwork and then had an 11-side game on a shortened pitch. there were no real clues about the line-up to face QPR tomorrow as each team contained some first-team players.

The eagle-eyed will have spotted Seyi Olofinjana, who a day beforehand had asked to come back and train with the club; he is looking for employment after being released by Hull, but Dave Jones was non-committal about the chances of the midfield player being signed, hinting that it was early days yet.

New boys Atdhe Nuhiu and Rafa Floro joined in too and will be in contention for League debuts at QPR if their international clearance arrives in time.

Lewis Buxton (shin splints) is definitely out and Kieran Lee (hip) is sidelined for two months. They also missed the team photcall yesterday: Lee was undergoing surgery, and Buxton was off ill.

Liam Palmer will keep the right-back spot where he has looked impressive in pre-season.

Jones said: “We sent Liam out on loan (to Tranmere) to toughen up; he has come back and done superbly. It’s a big step up for him now. The challenge is there.”

The chances of Reda Johnson (ankle) and new boy Jacques Maghoma (ankle) being fit may be slim.

Floro could be a contender. But Jones said: “He’s one for the future. We’re not going to push him too soon.” So the left-back berth could go to Joe Mattock.

Jones also revealed that Nuhiu has been back to Austria for a few days this week to tidy up affairs there and yesterday’s training session was his first with the entire squad.

If, as is quite possible, the ex-Rapid Vienna striker is not deemed ready for tomorrow, then Gary Madine is an option as a target man, but the manager could opt once again for the pacy strike partnership of Jermaine Johnson and Michail Antonio - which could be handy for catching teams on the break away from home.

Jones has been assessing Nuhui’s fitness: if he is not plunged in tomorrow, perhaps he will be fielded at Rotherham in the Capital One Cup next Tuesday. “But sometimes it’s best to throw them in at the deep end,” said the manager.

“He’s just getting his feet under the table. The lads need to get to know him as well. We need to be better at crossing the ball. If we we pick him out in the box, he’ll get on the end of it.”

Wednesday tied yesterday’s session in with the naming of software development firm WANdisco as shirt sponsors and the launch of the new home kit - disliked by some fans because of a blue bloc on the front, instead of there being only stripes.

It was all a novel send-off for the team before they leave for London today.

Jones said: “It was a bit of an open day for the supporters. It was also an opportunity for those players who hadn’t been on the pitch to get on it.”

The session lasted for an hour and was brisk and competitive. But the real action starts tomorrow.