Dave Jones has warned Roger Johnson he will have to scrap for his place at Sheffield Wednesday after ending the defender’s Molineux nightmare.
The 30-year-old had been transfer-listed and frozen out at Wolverhampton Wanderers after the Black Country club suffered back-to-back relegations.
But he is due to arrive at the Hillsborough club next week – where he will be reunited with Jones, who turned him into a £4m-rated defender while manager of Cardiff City – on a three-month loan deal.
Johnson had fallen out of favour with some fans and manager Kenny Jackett at Wolves after their slide from the Premier League to League One, the local newspaper even going as far as harshly describing him as “arguably the most toxic player associated with the club’s dramatic decline”.
But Jones is adamant the Owls have landed a quality defender who had just “lost his way” at Molineux, where he arrived in a £4m deal from Birmingham City.
“I brought him in from Wycombe and he went for a lot of money from Cardiff, then Birmingham to Wolves for big money,” said Jones. “But somewhere along the line he has lost his way a little bit. Whatever’s gone on there doesn’t affect us, it’s what he does here now.
“I have chased a lot of players, but last time I went for him he wasn’t available. We are just pleased to be working with him.”
Reports coming out of Molineux claim Jones was twice rebuffed in trying to sign Johnson in recent weeks, and the player himself had to take a big cut in his reported £20,000-a-week wages to secure the move north.
“I know the lad. Whatever’s been said about him you have got to ask the people why they’ve said it and for what reason,” said Jones. “I have known Roger for a long time and he did absolutely fantastic for me.
“He’s a very good player, he played in the majority of the games for Wolves last year. For whatever reason, we have been given the opportunity to go and get him and we are grateful for that. Roger knows where I stand, what my principles are, and the way I want to play – what I expect from my players.
“He comes here under no illusions whatsoever that he will have to fight for his place.
“He probably needs a good week’s training, see what levels he’s at, but we have a very good player. It’s up to him now, I can only give him the stage to go and perform.
“He’s not played since the back end of last season, and a footballer wants to play football. To be stuck in the stands and see no light at the end of the tunnel is disheartening.
“It’s like being injured and you know there’s nothing at the end of a hard week’s work. It’s a little bit soul-destroying.
“I just hope that he wants to get back on track, start playing, and show the player he is.
“He’s a very good defender but also likely to pop up with the odd goal or two from set-plays,” added Jones, who revealed the deal could be made permanent in January if the move works out.
Wednesday were able to bring in Johnson after Martin Taylor was loaned to Brentford. With the budget tight at Hillsborough and takeover talks continuing with owner Milan Mandaric, Jones has had to be patient to bring in a striker – Swansea’s Leroy Lita and Southampton’s Billy Sharp are targets – and a midfielder.
“We are still looking at other options, but until we get the green light and the finances in, we just have to bide our time,” said Jones. “There’s quite a few on my radar.
“Even the chairman knows what’s needed, but we also know the boundaries we are stuck within. We still have to be diligent in what we do.
“The chairman’s made no secret that if someone comes along who can do better for the club, he will look at it. I just get paid to do the football side and that’s what I do.”
Jones denied his interest in signing England goalkeeper Jack Butland on loan from Stoke City could signal current No 1 Chris Kirkland’s exit.
“What’s the problem of having two really good goalkeepers and them fighting it out?” asked Jones.
“Competition is what you need. When you haven’t got it players can become lazy, they can have a bad game because they know they are not going to be left out.
“We don’t have any favourites here. Chris knows the score.”
Free agents Stephen McPhail, Seyi Olofinjana and Gary Taylor-Fletcher – midfielders with Premier League experience – have been training at Middlewood Road for several weeks in the hope of securing a contract once the Owls’ finances improve.
“We’ve one or two others here, too, that haven’t got clubs trying to stake a claim,” added Jones.
“It’s all down to finances, moving people around and trying to get people in.
“They want to join us, we have got quite a few players wanting to join us. We are just waiting for that green light.”
Reda (Johnson) will stand in for injured captain Anthony Gardner as captain – “he’s quite vocal on the pitch, I don’t think many people will argue with him,” said Jones – for today’s visit of Yeovil.
Right-back Lewis Buxton should return from hamstring trouble while Jermaine Johnson is due back from international duty with Jamaica.
Young striker Emmanuel Dieseruwve has joined Hyde United on a month’s loan.