after another defensive display to forget saw Sheffield Wednesday’s goals against column rise to 14 in six games, manager Dave Jones told his players: “If you give me a gun and want to load it for me, I will fire the bullets, don’t worry about that.
“I haven’t got a problem with that – but don’t load the gun for me.”
It was the Wednesday manager’s way of explaining to his players that no one is safe from the axe and that any extension of the defensive frailty that has seen the Owls concede at least two goals in every league game this term will have consequences.
To avoid that, Jones went on to tell his squad Wednesday were going to have to go back to basics in defence after three straight defeats, the most recent of which came at Hillsborough in midweek as Huddersfield Town claimed all three points with a 3-1 derby triumph.
It is a call that new captain Martin Taylor insists the Owls are ready to heed ahead of a tough week that sees clashes with newly-relegated Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers sandwich a Capital One Cup trip to Southampton.
“The manager is right,” said the defender, who arrived from Watford shortly before the summer transfer window shut last month. “We have to go back to basics.
“There are a lot of experienced lads in the squad and they know what has to be done.
“We have made mistakes a couple of times in games and been punished.
“It all mounts up so we have to get back to doing the defending part of the game. We have to concentrate on that. By that, I mean the whole team.
“But in terms of the back four, we have to win our headers and our tackles. We have to make sure we are in the right position. Everything comes from that.
“There is enough quality here to turn it round.
“And when that happens, we will be sitting here and thinking, ‘I don’t know what we were worrying about’.”
Jones’s frustration at the defensive lapses that allowed Huddersfield to claim a second win at Hillsborough in three seasons was added to by an attempts-on-goal tally that stood at 22 to seven in the home side’s favour.
Today, the Owls manager is demanding a big improvement as misfiring Bolton Wanderers head to South Yorkshire for a game that will see Taylor lead the team out for the second time.
No one was more surprised than the former Blackburn and Birmingham defender when he was handed the armband just one match into his Hillsborough career after Jose Semedo asked to step down from the role.
“Being captain is a massive honour,” said 32-year-old Taylor. “It was a proud moment when the gaffer called me up to his office to tell me that is what he was going to do.
“Sheffield Wednesday are a massive club so to come straight in and become captain is something I never imagined.
“I’ve been captain before at Watford and Birmingham, and there is no doubt it causes that bit more excitement.
“I am someone who takes the extra responsibilities that come with the role very seriously. There are a few things, including making sure everyone has their tickets sorted. You don’t want the lads coming in and having to sort them out five minutes before kick-off.
“I am having to still find my way round a bit and having to ask the other lads about things. But, as captain, you have to be able to do the big talk on the pitch, and the little talk.
“Plenty of players shout at everyone but there are others that just need a little talk, a chat where you give them a pointer or two. It is important that everyone feels good and ready for the game.
“Mind, as great as the honour of being captain is, the thing we have to concentrate on now is the team. We need to get that first win since I arrived here.”
Despite coming into today’s clash on the back of three straight defeats, Wednesday are arguably in finer fettle than the visitors.
Bolton, the bookmakers’ pre-season favourites to win the Championship ahead of Leicester City, have lost three of their opening half-dozen Championship games and been dumped out of the Capital One Cup by Crawley Town.
Taylor said: “Bolton is a great game for us. They are a quality side coming out of the Premier League and it will be difficult.
“But I believe playing the good sides offers a chance to turn things round.
“Coming down from the Premier League brings pressure. Bolton will want to go straight back up at the first attempt.
“I have been in that position before, when a club has to use that parachute payment wisely and get back up.
“That brings pressure, especially because Bolton haven’t started so well. But they have quality players and still have the crux of last season’s squad.”
As for Wednesday, the trio of recent defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Huddersfield mean Jones’s men have slipped to 17th in the fledgling league table.
Taylor added: “One good result can change things round, particularly in the Championship. I have found that teams go on good runs all the time in this league.
“Hopefully, we can do that now. Confidence is still high among the lads. After a game, obviously we are all disappointed in the changing room if things haven’t gone well.
“The manager tries to lift you because there is another game in three days’ time. But when we came back in on Thursday, it was clear the confidence had flown back in.
“Professional footballers tend to have a lot of confidence in their own ability, and that means you bounce back quickly, ready to go again.
“Wednesday had a great start before I got here but then went to Crystal Palace, who hadn’t won, and lost.
“In both my games, we have been in it only to shoot ourselves in the foot. We have to pick ourselves up now. There are no excuses. Bolton will be a tough game but we are looking forward to it.”