Sheffield Wednesday: In-form Owls star welcomes battle for first-team spot

Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher
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Form is temporary. Class is permanent.

Jordan Rhodes underlined his superb predatory instincts in midweek. The Owls’ record-signing ended his barren run in front of goal by grabbing a consolation double against Bolton Wanderers.

Rhodes’ return to form gives boss Carlos Carvalhal a striking dilemma as Wednesday prepare to take on Burton Albion.

Will Carvalhal stick with Rhodes and Sam Winnall up front or recall Gary Hooper and Steven Fletcher? It is a tricky call but many Championship managers would dearly love to be in Carvalhal’s position.

The battle for places in attack is hotting up but Fletcher wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 30-year-old, the Owls’ matchwinner at Fulham last weekend, told The Star: “There is always pressure to score goals here but that can only be a good thing.

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

“It’s the added pressure you have when you go on to the field.

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“You know you need to perform as there is always someone who can come in and take your place.

“We have a good bunch of boys and strikers so it is good competition.”

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

The goals are flowing for Fletcher, who has been included in Scotland’s squad for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Malta. He has registered seven goals in his last 11 Owls outings in all competitions.

“I always want to get on the scoresheet but the three points are the most important thing,” he stressed. “We picked up the win at Fulham so I was happy.

“It would be nice to beat the 11 goals I managed last year but we have a lot of goal-scorers in the team.

“As long as we get to where we want to be, it doesn’t matter who scores the goals.”

On his long-standing knee problem, Fletcher said: “I have this niggling injury and have carried it for a while now. I have got my head round what it is and just have to manage it.

“The gaffer and the physios are helping with that.

“If we all manage it properly, then I should be fine to play and available for every game.

“But I need to strengthen up my legs - I have skinny legs, my wife tells me that all the time - so if I do the strength work I should be fine.”

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Fletcher has paid tribute to the club’s physios, saying: “They have been great since coming in. I have been working on an intense programme with one of them. It has been good and I have enjoyed the work I have done with him.”

Wednesday have made a steady, unspectacular start to the season. After failing to win any of their opening league three fixtures, the Owls received a fair amount of criticism in some quarters.

“We don’t really listen to outside stuff,” insisted Fletcher. “We know what we are all about.”

Wednesday urgently needed a positive result at Craven Cottage and got one. Their second half showing offered plenty of hope and optimism for the future and the three points lifted some of the gloom at Hillsborough.

Fletcher said: “It was a good win against Fulham and hopefully we can keep it going.

“These points we have picked up will be crucial come the end of the season.”

Eight places and two points currently separate the Owls and Burton in the table but Fletcher is refusing to take the Brewers lightly.

“Burton will be a hard game and we will need to start well,” he admitted.

Burton will be chasing a third straight win in all competitions when they welcome Wednesday to the Pirelli Stadium. After coming-from-behind to beat Birmingham City and record their first league victory, the Brewers followed up that success with an impressive win at Cardiff City in the Carabao Cup. Their reward for beating the Bluebirds is a trip to Premier League giants Manchester United in the third round.

Burton boss Nigel Clough said: “It’s a great draw for the fans, but also the players. I don’t think many of them will have had the chance to play at Old Trafford before.

“He (United boss Jose Mourinho) is one that doesn’t tend to put too weakened a side out, so it’s going to be very difficult from a football point of view.”

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