Owls steeled for league tasks rather than thinking of Blades

Stuart Gray
Stuart Gray
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Sheffield Wednesday manager Stuart Gray last night warned his players against the perils of contemplating the mouthwatering prospect of a potential Steel City FA Cup derby.

The Owls will face their fierce rivals Sheffield United for a place in the semi-finals if they defeat Charlton Athletic in a fifth-round game at Hillsborough that has been rearranged for next Monday (7.45pm).

However, they have two crucial Championship fixtures before then, at home to Derby County this evening and then at Huddersfield Town on Saturday, as they attempt to continue their move away from the relegation zone.

On the FA Cup draw, Gray admitted: “You don’t want to get one of the big boys as such and, if anything, want to avoid the Premier League teams.

“It’s a fantastic draw for the two clubs, but we’ve still got a long way to go before we get the opportunity to play Sheffield United.

“That Charlton team will be very angry they got up here on Saturday and the game was called off.

“We were all prepared and organised too. We’re disappointed we didn’t get to play.

“When the draw came out then yes, it is probably a bit of an incentive for everyone, but we’ve got six points to play for before that game.

“I’ve just reminded the players that we under-achieved at Derby away from home. We got battered three nil.

“But we’re a different Sheffield Wednesday side now and the most important thing is we’ve now got the opportunity to put a good performance on in front of our home fans.”

The Charlton game was postponed on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch.

Ordinarily, the fixture would have been rescheduled for next Tuesday or Wednesday.

However, UEFA rules deem that FA Cup games are not permitted to take place on the same day as European fixtures so, with Champions League ties being staged next week, it means the Owls must play twice in a little over 48 hours.

“It’s strange how it’s worked out,” continued Gray. “I saw (Sunderland manager) Gus Poyet’s interview the other day when he was asked whether he wanted a win or a loss (against Southampton in the FA Cup).

“He said he’d take the win, but didn’t want the draw. I couldn’t work that out.

“But when I had explained to me the reasons why I can see what he means.

“It happens. We have to get on with it. It’s the same for Charlton, it’s the same for us.

“We haven’t got too far to go to Huddersfield and I think Charlton are at home too and then they’ll travel up, probably on the Saturday.”

When asked if such a hectic schedule is fair – Wednesday are embarking on three games in six days – Gray added: “It’s not my decision. I’d have probably been a little concerned if I’d not brought my loan signings in, as such, as the squad is stretched to its limit at the moment.

“But we’ll get on with it and work on the Saturday against Huddersfield and then be in on the Sunday preparing for the Monday.”

Llera grateful to Gray: Page 16.