Sheffield Wednesday: Happy Stu relishes summer challenge

Owls boss Stuart Gray.
Owls boss Stuart Gray.
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Enjoy the ball.

That was one of the many orders Stuart Gray barked out to his Sheffield Wednesday squad on the first day of pre-season training earlier this week.

The coaching side of the job comes naturally to Gray and he looked like a man in his element.

“It felt good to be back out on the training pitch,” said the Owls head coach. “It is nice to be working with the players again and to get away from the mobile phone.”

A number of football agents ring Gray every day regarding their clients. It is no secret the Wednesday boss is looking to significantly rebuild his squad in preparation for the opening day of the season when they travel to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton and Hove Albion.

Although the recruitment drive has gone slower than he had hoped, Gray is pleased his players have adhered to their individual fitness programmes.

“They have all comeback looking very lean and in good shape,” he said.

Gray has offered all his players a fresh start at Hillsborough. It is up to players to impress the former Northampton chief in training and in the warm-up matches.

Gray and his backroom staff will certainly be putting the squad through their paces over the coming weeks.

He said: “Pre-season will be a mixture of everything.

“We’ve got double sessions a day planned for the first three weeks of training.

“A lot of the morning sessions will involve running and the players don’t enjoy that as much.

“But as soon as the balls come out in the afternoon, they get a little bit excited and are very enthusiastic. What they don’t realise is that my ball work is disguised running. They don’t realise how hard they are working running with the balls.”

“We are not trying to get them fit for today or tomorrow or the York game next week,” he said. “We are trying to get them fit for Brighton.

“It’s a gradual build up for getting fit for Brighton and all the way through the season.”

Wednesday have enjoyed luxury of a full complement of players at training this week.

“We haven’t got the biggest of squads at the moment so we want everybody available for selection,” admitted Gray. “The most important thing is that I want a full squad of players to choose from against Brighton.

“We’ve got to be careful we don’t over strain them. All players want to get through pre-season and then the games come thick fast.”

It is safe to say Gray will enjoy his summer’s work more if Wednesday’s players stay out of the treatment room.