MICHAIL Antonio’s decision to delay his move to Sheffield Wednesday should have made life easier.
His wife was eight months pregnant and the Reading winger needed to be at home.
Three months on, he could be forgiven for looking tired.
The sleepless nights, the change in routine, the pressures of added responsibility. All are taking a toll. And none of this is down to the new baby.
Antonio’s first two weeks at Hillsborough have been a whirlwind.
He made his debut in the Steel City derby against Sheffield United, saw his manager sacked three days later, and then scored twice against Bury in his first game under new manager Dave Jones.
If the Owls can win today against Bournemouth, they could even nudge the Blades out of the top two.
Compared to all that has been going on at work, his home life has been plain sailing.
The Antonios have moved up to Sheffield and are settled until the summer. Maybe longer. That depends how things work out on the field.
“I won’t say I have found it easy. Getting to a new club, you have to find your feet,” he reflected. “But it has been good to join a club and make a mark as quickly as possible.”
To be fair, the last three years have been a whirlwind for Antonio, never mind the last two weeks.
In February, 2009, he was still playing non-league football at Tooting and Mitcham United but was then snapped up by Reading on a two-year deal.
The Royals decided to broaden his experience by sending him out on loan to Cheltenham. He spent the following season on loan at Southampton and the next as a regular in the Reading side.
He was loaned out again, at the start of the current season, to Colchester United before being targeted by the Owls.
Initially, Megson wanted the 21-year-old to replace an out-of-form Jermaine Johnson. By the time of his arrival, however, he was a replacement for an injured star performer.
Jamaican international Johnson came back to the boil and scored a string of spectacular goals before suffering a knee injury against Chesterfield on February 18.
Fortunately for the Owls, Antonio filled the gap. Unfortunately for Megson, he was sacked.
“I had just come to the club when Gary Megson got sacked and I started to get a bit shaky,” he admitted. “But football is an unpredictable game and anything can happen at any time. As a footballer, you just have to do what you get paid for and carry on, come in, and train hard.
“It’s not a shock. There are always things happening in the background in football. Sometimes players know, sometimes they don’t,” he added.
“Gary Megson came in for me in November but my Mrs was pregnant. I just thought it would be very difficult to sort out the move at that time and the pregancy and the baby came along only a month later.
“It probably was the right choice to leave it until now because I wouldn’t really have felt right if I had been away from my baby and my Mrs. It’s more convenient now and we are living in a flat together.
“The baby (a boy) started sleeping through the night after a month which was good. As I am training, the Mrs does the night feeds – but once I get home from training, I look after him. I am so happy that my whole family could come and enjoy this whole experience with me.”
Although the Owls have 12 league games to go, Antonio signed for a 93-day period (the maximum permitted under Football League rules relating to emergency loans) that includes the possibility of the play-off final.
What happens between now and then will shape the futures of both parties.
“Right now, I don’t now how Reading are thinking so I need to concentrate on my performance and whatever happens, happens. My contract runs until the end of next season and I don’t really know where I stand,” he admitted.
“I just view this as getting games. Sheffield Wednesday is a very big club and this is a great opportunity. I’m just trying to get my head down and perform as well as I can.
“I am my biggest critic so I set myself high targets,” he stressed. “As a winger, I like to get a lot of assists and crosses into the box. I want to average 10 crosses a game and score four more goals.”
In terms of league targets, Antonio says the Owls are still not giving up the fight for the title – despite being 14 points adrift of leaders Charlton Athletic.
“For the club, it’s all about getting promotion,” he said. “Right now, it’s Sheffield United who are on top of us and we need to go for them. But, as soon as we get their spot, we go for Charlton. But basically, it’s all about getting that promotion so we get to the Championship and play where I feel this club should be.”
New manager Jones was full of praise for Antonio’s midweek performance and is excited about developing his potential.
He views wingers as an important part of the game and made a point of recalling Mike Jones against Bury to ensure the Owls had natural widemen on both flanks.
With Johnson out for another six weeks, Antonio’s arrival has been a case of better late than never.