Stuart Gray is determined to provide Sheffield Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric with more evidence that he deserves the Hillsborough manager’s job.
Not even the 6-0 derby thrashing of Leeds United on Saturday was enough yet to convince Mandaric that caretaker-boss Gray deserved to succeed axed Dave Jones on a permanent basis.
Wednesday were six points adrift of safety in the Championship when Gray took charge, but four wins in eight games have seen rejuvenated Owls pull four points clear of the bottom three.
Back-to-back Championship wins at Hillsborough have seen Wednesday score eight goals and keep successive clean sheets. Under Jones, the Owls had failed to keep a single clean sheet all season and had won just once.
Mandaric and Gray met after the Leeds game and while many felt that would result in Gray’s confirmation as full-time manager, the chairman believes “if it isn’t broke, why fix it”.
Now former Southampton boss Gray, who takes charge for tonight’s FA Cup third-round replay at Hillsborough against Conference side Macclesfield Town, is determined to force Mandaric’s hand by delivering positive results on the pitch.
“I had a meeting with the chairman, a good chat with him, but at this moment in time I am still the caretaker manager of Sheffield Wednesday,” said Gray.
“From the outside looking in, you probably think you beat Leeds United 6-0, there’s every chance I would get the job.
“But I am in dialogue with the chairman and we speak on a regular basis. For some reason, he has decided not to give me the job at this moment in time.
“I was asked to take charge, the brief was to get out of the bottom three, which we have done.
“We hadn’t had a clean sheet, so we have those, we are scoring goals – eight goals in our last two home games and two clean sheets.
“I imagine I am giving the chairman a bit of a problem, because we are winning games and playing attractive football as well.
“I just have to keep winning, that takes excuses away.”
Gray was involved in a boardroom meeting with Mandaric after the Leeds game.
Maintaining the status quo allows the chairman to save money in the short-term, while avoiding any long-term managerial commitment if a consortium takeover comes to fruition before the end of the season.
“He just said, ‘Well done’, congratulated me and obviously he was as high as we all were with the performance and the goals,” Gray said.
“It’s down to his decision. What goes on over the line, on the pitch, that’s my organisation. What goes on upstairs in the boardroom, that’s the chairman’s prerogative.
“It’s a results business and at the moment the results are going quite well for us.
“We are five games unbeaten and long may it continue.
“I want to pass credit to the players, they deserve the credit. I was very pleased with the result (against Leeds) and the performance, it was a special day.”
Asked whether the managerial uncertainty could become a dressing room issue, Gray replied: “Turn it round; say it’s not affecting the players because we are getting results.
“Like I say to the players, we can’t control what goes on upstairs, all we can do is control what we do on the pitch.
“I think I have proven that (he is the right man for the job). My brief was to get us out of the bottom three, to get a clean sheet, and to score goals. I think I have done that, and shown I can do the job.
“It’s just titles. At the moment I am in charge of picking the team, organising the team, which I am thoroughly enjoying.”
Wednesday face Macclesfield after being held 1-1 at Moss Rose 10 days ago – the one blot on Gray’s copybook – looking to extend a five-match unbeaten run.
“The most important thing is we have an FA Cup tie against Macclesfield,” said Gray. “If we put the effort and the performance in as we did against Leeds, it should take care of itself. But I know in the Cup there will be twists and turns.
“We want to get as far as we can in this competition and that’s why I will be putting my strongest team out I can.”
Top scorer Connor Wickham is unavailable under the terms of his loan deal from Sunderland, and youngster Caolan Lavery – who netted twice as substitute against Leeds – misses out as he was on loan at Plymouth at the time of the original Cup match at Moss Rose. Goalkeeper Damian Martinez comes in to replace Chris Kirkland.
“It’s a strange rule, as Caolan is our player, but we can’t play him in the Cup,” mused Gray.
The Owls want to keep Wickham – who has netted eight goals in 10 games at Hillsborough – on loan until the summer, despite reported interest involving a £4m bid from Nottingham Forest.
“We hope so, but with the window open you never know; there might be a bid that Sunderland accept,” said Gray.
“Fingers crossed, but we are also prepared that if we do lose Connor we also have others lined up that would come in.
“I am just a phone call away from him being called back.”
The Owls have agreed deals with two players, understood to be strikers, and hope they will join USA international Oguchi Onyewu, the former AC Milan and QPR defender who has joined until the end of the season.
Gray added: “We have a couple of offers on the table and are just waiting for the player to give us the green light.
“Then he will come in and have a medical.
“Fingers crossed a 6-0 win, live on TV, helps your cause to say to the player, ‘Come and enjoy what we are doing’.”