Jacques Maghoma is an ever-present for Sheffield Wednesday this season, but the winger admits he is looking over his shoulder at Hillsborough.
With Stuart Gray drafting in widemen Roysten Drenthe – who once plied his trade at Real Madrid – and Everton youngster Hallam Hope, Maghoma knows he has a battle to keep his shirt.
But the former Tottenham youngster has waited so long for his chance at Wednesday, he is relishing the fight.
Maghoma joined Wednesday from Burton Albion two summers ago, only for injuries to hinder his Owls career last year.
But after the departure of star winger Michail Antonio in the summer to Nottingham Forest, 26-year-old Maghoma has made the left-wing position his own, starting in all 14 games in league and cup for the Owls.
“This season has been good,” Maghoma told The Yorkshire Post.
“Last season it was tough for me. I came in and got the injury at the start, which hindered me in my progress.
“But this season I have played every game, played a lot of minutes, and that has helped me with my form.
“Hopefully I can keep going, carry that on and score a few goals, help the team to move forward.
“I am getting a lot of assists, four now – all for Atdhe (Nuhiu), by the way – hopefully I can keep contributing to the team. I have told Atdhe he owes me some assists,” he smiled.
“When you are on the pitch you have to fight to keep your position. We have a lot of quality, and every game I know I have to play at my top level otherwise there are other players who can come in and take your shirt.
“I have to keep working hard and not be complacent. Our consistency week-in, week-out means we have the same team – apart from injuries – and players keep their shirt because they are playing well.”
The Owls sit ninth in the Championship with 17 points – just four points off Watford, who are joint leaders with Norwich and Forest, and tomorrow’s visitors to Hillsborough. It is a far cry from last season when the Owls did not accumulate their 18th point until Boxing Day.
Maghoma puts Wednesday’s revival down to their strong work ethic under coach Gray.
“We are progressing,” he said. “We are not far off from the other teams in front of us, just a few points gap, so hopefully we can stay in and around there. Keep pushing, picking up as many points as we can.
“The Championship is tough this season. We were not put down to go into the top six, or do very well, at the beginning of the season and I think we have proved a lot of people wrong.
“We have played well, started very well, and it’s important we continue this run and carry on working hard.
“That’s our philosophy, to outwork teams, to run more than them, then our qualities will come out on top.
“There’s a consistency in the squad, everyone is playing their part. Not just the starting XI, there’s a few games where people have come off the bench and done very well, changed the game for us.
“Like Birmingham, where we didn’t start very well. We changed personnel, Jeremy Helan came on and played really well, scored a goal.
“We are a tight group. We do a lot of stuff together, outside of training too, everyone gets on well. We go for food, and have a lot of banter with each other. But most importantly we work hard for each other too. This team spirit can take us far.”
Wednesday have struggled to win at Hillsborough in the Championship this season, winning just once, losing once, but drawing three.
With five of their next eight games at home before the end of November, Maghoma believes the Hillsborough crowd can help improve their home record.
“Our away form is probably better than our home form,” said Maghoma, whose only goal this season came in the 3-0 Capital One Cup win against Notts County.
“We want to make Hillsborough a fortress, and start winning more games than drawing or losing. That’s important to us. It’s a thin line between success and failure, and the games at home will be the most important to get the maximum points.
“The players try to concentrate on the game, rather than the surroundings. Of course it’s nice to play at home in front of a big crowd – although away we always take the maximum amount of fans as well.
“Where ever we play, but especially at Hillsborough on Saturday, I am hoping it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere and hopefully they can carry us, give us the motivation and the push to get all three points.
“Watford have always been in and around the play-offs. They have top quality players. We just need to work harder than them, but play our football too, we can’t always look at the opposition.
“Hopefully our qualities will outshine them.”