Confidence. Trust. Progress.
These are three of Jos Luhukay’s buzzwords when he conducts his media duties.
And the Dutchman cut a relaxed figure at the Owls’ Middlewood Road training ground in his first pre-match press conference of the 2018/19 season.
Wednesday have not signed a single player amid unconfirmed reports the club are under a transfer embargo for breaching Profitability and Sustainability regulations but Luhukay remains optimistic the squad he has at his disposal can “surprise people” this season.
Is his confidence and trust in the team misplaced? Some observers argue the Owls look a little short of strength in depth and quality in a couple of areas.
As Luhukay was quick to point out yesterday, eight players have moved on since the end of last season.
“We had a very big squad,” admitted Luhukay. “Now we have a squad which includes seven players from the Under-23s.
“We have options in defence, midfield and in the central position.
“I think we have a good squad together with good balance. We are very positive to start this season.”
The sight of Keiren Westwood, Joost van Aken, Barry Bannan, Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri all returning from long injury lay-offs in recent months also fills Luhukay with plenty of confidence and belief. Only Almen Abdi, Kieran Lee and Gary Hooper are definitely ruled out of Saturday’s league opener at Wigan Athletic.
Something else which gives Luhukay hope for the future is the manner in which the team finished last term. Progress was made as Wednesday picked up 20 points in their final 10 fixtures.
Now the aim is to do “better” than their 15th-placed finish.
Luhukay said: “I’m not a coach who says before a season we will come to position one, six or 10. I think it is very important that we try to play very good football and we do everything we can for good results.”
Wednesdayites will be out in force at the DW Stadium. More than 4,500 fans will cheer them on in Lancashire.
“We must play for our fans and ourselves to give good performances and do things better than last season,” said Luhukay.
“Hopefully we don’t have the problems we had last season with injuries.
“When this squad stays together and we don’t have a bad situation with injuries, I’m sure this squad has a lot of quality.”
Luhukay said the Owls have done their “homework” on newly-promoted Wigan.
He said: “We have in the last weeks looked at them very intensively.
“They are a team with fantastic balance and quality. They had a fantastic year in League One.
“I think they have a lot of confidence and trust to start in the new competition. Both teams will give everything to come to a good result.”
All eyes will be on who starts in goal against the Latics. Keiren Westwood, Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson are competing for one spot.
“We have three very good goalkeepers in the position,” said Luhukay. “Two are young goalkeepers.
“In the last six months, we have seen Joe [Wildsmith] and he has made very good progression in his performances. And at the end of the season and in the FA Cup games, Cammy [Dawson] did a very good job.
“It looks a problem that we have but we have made the decision.
Stoke City, Wednesday’s Championship rivals, recently expressed an interest in signing Westwood.
Luhukay said: “There is always speculation.
“Keiren is there and is training 100 per cent. He has been in a good physical shape in the whole pre-season.
“He has trained to try and come back in his best performances.”
Will Luhukay let a goalkeeper go before Thursday’s transfer deadline?
“You never know what the future brings,” he said. “The transfer window is open so you must as a coach always think about what could happen. My focus is to work every day with my players and this team. We have worked intensive with each other to come into a good shape and form. On Saturday, we must give an answer and hopefully get a good result.”