Nuhiu aims to tough it out and prove his quality with the Owls

Sheffield Wednesday's Atdhe Nuhiu
Sheffield Wednesday's Atdhe Nuhiu
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Sheffield Wednesday summer signing Atdhe Nuhiu has probably endured more questions about the pronunciation of his name than his footballing prowess since arriving at Hillsborough.

In a summer when the Owls were expected to bring in several strikers to remedy a poor goals tally last term, Albania-born Nuhiu has been the only out-and-out forward arriving in S6.

His name may be a tongue-twister for broadcasters and writers, but the 23-year-old had everyone in English football talking with his stunning debut goal against promotion favourites QPR on the first day of the season.

Not that it surprised Nuhiu. A former Austrian Under-21 striker, he was in the Rapid Vienna side which knocked Aston Villa out of the Europa League in 2010 when he scored in both legs.

His pedigree prompted Owls manager Dave Jones to snap up the striker on a free transfer after spending last season on loan with Turkish side Eskisehirspor.

Now Nuhiu hopes his goals can help fire Wednesday up the league and win him a full international call-up; he is eligible to play for Albania or Austria.

“It’s been very good, everyone has been so friendly,” said the 6ft 6ins striker. “QPR was a good start but I couldn’t be too happy because we lost the game and normally we shouldn’t lose.

“I didn’t really have pre-season, so even now I am not 100 per cent. QPR was a little step to show the people how much quality I have. I can do better, game by game, and it will be better. The last game before Leeds, against Burnley, I played for the 90 minutes. It’s getting better.

“I came from another country and to play English football is completely different to what I have played before.

“It’s not just fitness, I have to adapt to English football which will take time, too.”

While the style of play is different in England, players are given better protection on the continent and, after experiencing a tough Yorkshire derby with Leeds last weekend, Nuhiu knows he faces a steep learning curve.

“It’s tougher,” he admitted. “In Europe, the referees would give fouls for me. Here they jump on me and it’s not a foul. But it’s not an excuse, I have to learn that and improve. The sooner I learn, the better for me.

“For me, it was a dream to come to England but I knew it would be tough. The Premier League and the Championship I knew would be difficult, but I am ready for it.”

Nuhiu was at Crystal Palace in the summer before Jones offered him a deal but the striker gives short shrift to questions about his Selhurst Park trial.

“Crystal Palace is history. I am at Sheffield Wednesday and I don’t want to talk about that now,” he stressed. “I knew Wednesday were a very historic club. It’s a club, a name, that people know in central Europe. When you say Sheffield Wednesday, people know about the team.”

While his goal at Loftus Road was all about individualism, as he beat several players in the Rangers half before firing in from long range, Nuhiu believes he can offer Wednesday options up front.

“Normally, I am the target player but I can also play with my feet as well,” he said.

“The players can use me for different things. It’s better if the player has more choices, if he can hold the ball or dribble and it makes things much easier for his team-mates. My strength is in the 18-yard box, I am good in this area. Outside, I can do good things, too, but, of course, I want to improve.”

Nuhiu – who scored seven goals in 13 games for the Austria Under-21 side – describes his goals return as “not bad”.

“I had two really good years at Rapid Vienna and I am really happy to have played for this kind of team.

“I don’t have a goals target in mind (this season). I just want to get my chances and if I provide a lot of assists and we win the game, that’s also good.

“I think we have a really good team. We played against QPR – a team who want to get promoted – and they were not much better than us. We saw in this game how good we can play. Against Burnley, I think also we were unlucky because in the second half we were much better than them.

“At Leeds, getting a point there wasn’t bad, so we showed we are not a team which should be in the position we are at now.”

Goals and success at Hillsborough could signal further international reward, something Nuhiu would welcome.

“I think this can help (playing in England),” he said. “The English league, the Premier League and the Championship is what everybody looks at.

“Hopefully, the country and the coach will see how many games I am playing – at the moment it’s going good – and we will see what happens in the future.”

Today, Wednesday welcome Millwall to Hillsborough, with both sides still looking for their first win of the Championship campaign.

After defeats to QPR and Burnley, plus a surprise loss to Rotherham United in the League Cup, Wednesday drew 1-1 at Leeds last weekend and Owls boss Jones knows his side are in for a scrap today.

“When you look at the squad that Millwall have built, there is some quality players there with experience; Premiership and top Championship players,” said Jones. “We have to be at our best and take nothing for granted.”

The Owls have bolstered their attacking options with the signing of Switzerland Under-21 international Andelko Savic on a year-long loan deal.

The 20-year-old striker joins up with the Owls from Italian side Sampdoria having made his Serie A debut in January this year.

richard.hercock@ypn.co.uk