Sheffield Wednesday v Bristol City: Wednesday willing to wing it as Wallace looks to grab hat-trick

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Connor Wickham, Jordan Rhodes and Adam Le Fondre have all been touted as the answer to Sheffield Wednesday’s summer search for a 20-goal striker.

For a team who only managed a meagre 16 goals in 23 games at Hillsborough last season, and only 43 in the entire 2014-15 season, Wednesday desperately needed to address their lack of a cutting edge over the summer.

Owls new boy Ross Wallace

Owls new boy Ross Wallace

Stuart Gray was replaced by Carlos Carvalhal in the summer as head coach, as owner Dejphon Chansiri took decisive action to remedy the problem.

Attacking flair has been added in the form of midfield playmaker Alex Lopez – on loan from Spanish side Celta Vigo – Lewis McGugan and Portuguese striker Lucas Joao.

While a trio of wingers in Marco Matias, the experienced Ross Wallace and former Marseille wide-man Modou Sougou mean there should be plenty of creativity from the flanks.

Eleven new signings in total, but no experienced Championship striker over the S6 threshold, meaning the striker who could profit most from this early influx of chances is Atdhe Nuhiu.

All smiles for two goal Atdhe Nuhiu

All smiles for two goal Atdhe Nuhiu

Now in his third season at Hillsborough, the hard-working 26-year-old has been a frustrating figure for Owls supporters.

After netting a superb goal on his debut at QPR two years ago, Nuhiu has struggled to deliver goals on a consistent basis.

Sixteen goals in 81 league appearances is a modest return, but with the former Austrian Under-21 striker set to start up front for Wednesday today in their season opener against newly-promoted Bristol City, he could prosper from the summer arrivals.

Last season, Gray rarely employed out-and-out wingers who could deliver quality crosses for the 6ft6” target man.

But Wallace – the 30-year-old signed on a free transfer from Burnley – has already formed a profitable partnership with Nuhiu in pre-season.

Reminiscent of Brian Marwood in his heyday, some old-fashioned wing play from Wallace was behind last weekend’s 5-0 romp against St Mirren.

The way he dropped his shoulder, gained a yard on the defender before jinking a cross towards the centre spot was like rolling back the years to the Eighties when Marwood turning provider for Lee Chapman’s thundering headers.

Nuhiu’s three goals in two pre-season games has certainly whetted Wallace’s appetite for the new campaign.

“For me having the big man in the box is brilliant because I know if I put it in in the right area, nine times out of 10 it’s going to find the big man in the box,” said Wallace.

“It’s nice to play alongside him and hopefully as the season goes on I can get a few assists for him.

“His hold up play is good and because of his sheer size it’s hard for people to get in front of him, so he’s good at holding it up and for me as a wide man it gives me chance to get in the final third and get crosses into the box, which is my game.

“I’m also looking to get more goals this season personally, but we’ve got a lot of strikers and have worked on playing two up front as well.

“It’s good to get pre-season out of the way, it’s always a long slog but the season starts now and we’re looking forward to it.

“It’s good to get a comfortable win the week before the season starts, that will give the lads confidence.

“I know some new lads came in, but we’re getting used to playing with each other and all in all we’re looking forward to it.”

Wallace is looking to complete a hat-trick of promotions from the Championship at Wednesday, after going up with both Sunderland and Burnley.

“I’d love to get that,” admitted the Scotsman. “There’s no better feeling than promotion, but it’s no good saying that at the start of the season. There’s a hatful of teams who are looking for promotion. It’s easy to stand here and say we’re going to get promoted, but I think we’ve got a good group off players here.

“Ones who can grind out results so to speak and we’ve got quality. We’ve got all the ingredients there, it’s just about putting it all together.”

So what’s required for promotion from the Championship?

“You’ve got to have a bit of heart, a bit of dig and you’ve got to have the quality,” said Wallace.

“I believe we’ve got that and that togetherness and if we get the fans behind us and get the whole thing going, but as players we know we’ve got to give them something to sing and shout about. If we can do that and get a bit of momentum that’s the key to getting promotion really. We’ve got forward-thinking players who have got goals in them.

“It’s a similar situation to the one we had at Burnley, we were a tight group there. Within days I was involved with the lads and they’re a good bunch there.”

With the arrival of wealthy Thai businessman Chansiri, there is expectation on Wednesday this season to challenge for the play-offs.

Wallace believes the key to success may be in swiftly integrating the foreign imports and giving them a crash-course in educating them to the unique demands of English football.

“No doubt we’ve got the quality but it’s no good having the quality and not having togetherness, that doggedness that can fight you out of games and grind out results, that’s a quality on its own,” he said.

“So if we can develop that and the quality going forward it could be a promising season.

“We’ve brought in some foreign players and they’re going to have to adapt to this league.

“This league is like no other. Once you get to Christmas time there’s games flying in and the boys who have experienced the Championship over the last few years realise we’re going to have to guide these guys long.”