What the departure of Steven Fletcher, Morgan Fox and Fernando Forestieri means for Sheffield Wednesday's season
It always threatened to get a bit messy. And as Steven Fletcher, Morgan Fox and Fernando Forestieri leave a combined 374 Sheffield Wednesday appearances behind them, Garry Monk is left with little to do but consider how best to rally those left behind.
The Owls, set eight points clear of the relegation zone but with the dark cloud of a potential points deduction hanging over them and growing ever darker, can now fairly consider themselves depleted.
Sunday’s trip to Bristol City is the first of eight matches in 24 days – a gruelling prospect at the best of times – and with only 15 senior players left in the Middlewood Road ranks, a figure that includes youngsters Alex Hunt and Osaze Urhoghide, Monk and his staff will have to be at their very best in terms of squad management.
They deprive the club not only of bodies, of course, but of quality. Of the 11 matches that Steven Fletcher has missed this season Wednesday have won only two, and it is no coincidence that the period that Fox missed at the turn of the year saw them go winless in four.
Fletcher’s importance to the side is well-known of course. The focal point for everything that went well for the club in the lead-up to Christmas, he provides the sort of intelligent movement that brings the best out of players around him, quite unlike anything the club have left to replace him with.
The extension of Atdhe Nuhiu’s contract to the end of the season is a bonus in that it has doubled the number of strikers confirmed to still be at the club in a weeks time, joining Jordan Rhodes. Extensions for Alessio Da Cruz and the injured Josh Windass are in the pipeline but yet to be secured, as is that of winger Jacob Murphy.
Forestieri, an enigma though he is, has proven from time to time that he can inject a certain something into a side’s attack and will surely be missed as an option from the bench, though it is impossible not to feel that his card was marked long ago after Monk’s assertion that he was too unfit to be selected this weekend.
The news leaves issues at the back as well. The manager’s rally that the 3-5-2 system utilised on Saturday was based on what squad he could have found himself left with now makes crystal sense without Fox, who provides a balance to the backline they sorely missed when he was gone.
But above all what they will miss certainly in the cases of Fletcher and Fox, is an attitude, a desire and a style of play that would have been important should they be thrown into the warzone of a relegation battle. Monk has time and again described the duo as two of the squad’s leaders; he has also lambasted a lack of leadership left.
Whatever happens, there is a job on for those left behind and it’s time for sleeves to be rolled up. If not, it threatens to get a bit messy.