Sheffield Wednesday: Jones aims to improve Owls

Miguel Llera  heads a dangerous ball away from Sheffield Wednesday's penalty area in their defeat to Premier League bound Cardiff City; the Spanish defender is out of contract at Hillsborough this summer
Miguel Llera heads a dangerous ball away from Sheffield Wednesday's penalty area in their defeat to Premier League bound Cardiff City; the Spanish defender is out of contract at Hillsborough this summer
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Managers have to make tough decisions on a daily basis - but Dave Jones certainly isn’t frightened of making unpopular choices.

As The Star highlighted last week, nine members of his Owls squad are out of contract in the summer, including crowd favourites Miguel Llera and Jermaine Johnson, who has bagged four goals in his last four starts.

However, Jones has stressed there will be no room for sentiment when planning the club’s future.

“It is not about being popular with the fans or whatever,” said Jones, who will serve the second of a two-match touchline ban at Blackpool tonight. “It is about whether they [the players] are going to do the job for the football club.

“Sometimes players will leave a club who fans think are irreplaceable and then all of a sudden you find someone else. The club has to keep moving and and you try and keep all your good players. You are always looking to make your squad better and stronger. Sometimes I might have to let a player go for money which helps you strengthen in one or two other departments.”

Llera and Johnson are in their early-30s but Jones insists age is no barrier.

“If they are good enough, they play,” he said. “I was at Wolves and I took Paul Ince and Dennis Irwin there and they were absolutely fantastic for me and yet they were 36 and 37. They had that experience and know how.

“We brought Danny Pugh in here and he’s got that experience, a wise head and knows this division. Experience is vital at this level if you want to do something.”

Irrespective of what league Wednesday are competing in next season, Jones reckons the majority of his out of contract players would wish to stay at Hillsborough.

He said: “I would hope so. This is a fantastic club to be employed by. We have started to set things in place that will help the club grow stronger and stronger.”

The Wednesday chief has spoken to his out of contract players agents, informing them that no decisions will be made on their clients until the club have retained their Championship status.

“Until we know what league we are in, we can’t do anything,” he said. “The sooner you tie up players, you dont’t have to look around. Your priority is not in that position. If you don’t tie them up, then you are chasing players like everybody else.

“If I was a player, I would not make my mind up now. If you are a good player, you wait and see what offers come in because it is their livelihood.

“We will get supporters who say they [the players] love the club and everything else but if someone comes in and offers them double their money, you soon find out how much they love the club.

“You have got to give them an environment where they love coming to work and enjoy being here and they want to be part of the club.”

Jones is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Seasiders manager Ince, who replaced Steve Thompson at the helm nearly two months ago.

“Paul did well for me at Wolves,” he said. “He’s had a fantastic career. He always wanted to be a manager. He did well at Macclesfield and at MK Dons. It didn’t work out for him at Blackburn but these things happen.”

If Wednesday are to prevail at Blackpool, they will have to nullify the threat of Paul Ince’s son, Thomas.

Jones acknowledged: “He is a super player; I am surprised he is still there. They have done well to keep hold of him. But we have to play our own game. We are aware of the dangers and strengths of the other team. If you worry about one player, another one could pop up.”

Despite winning three out of their last six matches, 12th-placed Blackpool remain just five points above the drop zone. Their playing surface at Bloomfield Road has been in a poor state all season but Jones will be encouraging his team to keep the ball on the ground.

He said: “You can’t let it [the pitch] worry you. You have got to get the ball on the floor. You can’t always have it in the air. It is impossible.”