SHEFFIELD Wednesday manager Dave Jones is set to make his first move in the transfer market ahead of tonight’s final emergency loan deadline of the season.
The Owls, who are third in League One, lost ground on second-placed Sheffield United in midweek and are now two points behind in the race for automatic promotion to the Championship.
Fourth-placed Huddersfield Town, who have a game in hand, winning at Chesterfield has only served to intensify the pressure on the Owls which is why Jones is so keen to strengthen for the final eight games.
“We are trying to bolster the squad but teams don’t want to let good players go,” he said. “I have made 30 to 40 calls over the last two days but everyone wanted to get the games out of the way and see where they were.
“At this stage of the season, if they are fighting relegation or fighting to get out of the league why are they going to let anyone go?” he added. “We are looking at teams that are probably safe and it depends on how results go whether we can get them out.
“It’s difficult. We are trying to push to strengthen and help the squad but you only bring players in if they are going to do you good things. If they are not better than what you have got, or as good, it’s not the right thing to do.”
Crystal Palace midfielder Sean Scannell, former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler and Wigan Athletic’s Conor Sammon are among those who have been linked with the Owls in the past few weeks but Jones prefers not to comment on transfer targets.
The Owls have not entered the market since Jones replaced Gary Megson as manager at Hillsborough three weeks ago but chairman Milan Mandaric has pledged his full support if reinforcements are required.
Central midfield is likely to be the area of priority as the return of Jamaican international Jermaine Johnson from injury against Walsall boosted the options both on the flanks and in attack.
Reflecting on the latest twists in the League One promotion race, Jones said: “It was an opportunity for us (against Walsall) but don’t forget we were playing against a side that is fighting for its life to stay in this division. There is still a long way to go and doom clouds gather but it’s hard work.
“Football has a tendency to kick you in the teeth sometimes. It’s hard when things don’t come off, but that can happen and the good sides keep going. That’s what the players did and they ended up getting a point which could have easily been nothing.”
Since replacing Megson, Jones is unbeaten in five games, but he took a watching brief for his opener, an away draw at Rochdale.
The Owls needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Gary Madine to preserve Jones’s unbeaten record against Walsall on Tuesday night at Hillsborough.
“We have been in the place a couple of weeks and I cannot fault the players,” Jones stressed. “They have been absolutely magnificent and we were all disappointed because we had not won at home. If we had lost, we would have felt even worse but we have gained a point.
“I don’t think we played as well as we have been. We were poor as a team defensively and got a bit frustrated trying to break them down. Some of our decision making was poor and we tried to play in some of the wrong departments, but credit that we kept going and going.
“The lads worked hard but they can work on the other things we are trying to instil. That’s what we will keep working at. It’s not a long time to keep changing.”
Winger Johnson made a surprise return to action against the Saddlers after nearly five weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.
“It was great to have Jermaine back and that will have done him the world of good,” said Jones.
“He’s been out a month or so and he’s back quicker than we thought but he adds to the strength of the squad. He has the pace, he’s a good finisher, but he’s got to get back in the routine. One or two things just didn’t come off for him. He was unfortunate.”
Owls captain Rob Jones, meanwhile, has hailed the impact made by new manager Jones on the training field.
“We have changed the way we play quite dramatically in three weeks,” he said. “He’s trying to instil a more fluent passing game which the boys have really responded to. We have created lots and lots of chances because of that.
“He likes to play it differently. I think everyone can see that,” he added. “Sometimes passing on the halfway line isn’t going to score you a goal but maybe five, six, seven passes down the line it will.
“You can’t bang everything forward and try and pick up the scraps. Not all the time. I think the goals we have created in the last few games have epitomised that. We have played around teams, through teams, and over teams.
“It’s not a long period of time to instil the way he wants you to play but the lads have responded well.
“He’s brought a different mentality in and wants us to express ourselves and play with a smile on our face. He’s been there and done it. He’s very experienced, as was the old manager, if we can take a little bit from both of them. This season has been a good season so far but we want it to be a great season. And a great season means getting out of the division.”