Watch: Positive start but Gray warns Sheffield Wednesday to stay grounded

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The sun was shining on Sheffield Wednesday at their Middlewood Road training complex yesterday but the black clouds that gathered overhead served as a timely reminder of how quickly things can change.

Positivity is radiating around S6 after a bright start to the new campaign which has yielded a win and a draw in the Championship, and a smooth passage into the next round of the Capital One Cup.

New Sheffield Wednesday signing Stevie May on debut against Derby County at Hillsborough. PIC: Steve Ellis

New Sheffield Wednesday signing Stevie May on debut against Derby County at Hillsborough. PIC: Steve Ellis

As much as the results, though, it is the purposeful performances that have caught the eye of outside observers such as Steve McClaren, whose Derby side were relieved to depart Hillsborough on Saturday with a point.

Stuart Gray, the Owls head coach, is most pleased, though, with the three successive clean sheets that have provided the platform.

It is his job now to ensure the sun keeps shining on his side, and those black clouds are kept at bay.

“We’re only two games into the season and it’s a tough old season,” cautioned Gray, whose side entertain Millwall tonight, a team who have started their campaign on a similar footing.

“It’s very flattering when you see somebody like Steve McClaren talking very respectfully about your team, so we must be doing something right.

“I think those comments spread to the group as well. But the most important thing is not having any complacency creep in.”

A tough early-season schedule that sees the Owls – and most teams – play seven games in 21 days is helping the head coach keep his players focused on one game at a time.

He had them back in work on Sunday morning to begin preparing for the visit of Ian Holloway’s unbeaten side, which helped him ensure the rave reviews they received for an energetic performance in the goalless draw with Derby the previous day did not have too long to sink in.

No matter the positives of Saturday, it was only one point gained and Wednesday fans of a more pessimistic nature will be mindful of the scenario of two years ago when a win over Millwall in the third game of the season took Wednesday to seven points from a possible nine.

What followed was a run of just two wins in 18 league games that nearly cost then-manager Dave Jones his job.

The optimism is so high now because of the context of the last two seasons, with that dramatic plummet two years ago followed by a 17-game wait for a first win last season that went all the way to the first weekend in November.

Gray was part of the backroom staff then before succeeding Jones in December and navigating the club to safety.

The start he has engineered now has merely heightened the feelgood factor, but Gray knows the hard work is only just starting.

“For us it’s about getting consistency, especially at the back where we’re not conceding, and then up front we just need to pop in one or two more goals,” he continued.

“We eventually will concede a goal, so it’s how you react to it, but I have every confidence that any little setback and these players will roll their sleeves up and bounce back.”

Gray puts the start down to confidence and continuity – the former being fostered by a good team spirit and strong play, and the latter a direct result of a settled back five in goalkeeper Kieran Westwood, Liam Palmer, Joe Mattock, Glenn Loovens and Tom Lees.

He knows they will be tested again tonight against a Millwall side who have surpassed the Owls in the surprisingly-strong-start stakes.

“I’m sure myself and Ian Holloway will have been thinking that who’d have thought at the start of the season that Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday would still be unbeaten,” said Gray with a smile.

“I feel as though the Championship is going to be wide open. Who’d have thought Brighton would have lost twice?

“In my day, the league table didn’t come up until six games, so it’s about taking notice then.

“If we can keep performing like we are doing, I’m sure we’ll shoot up the league.”

How successful Gray is in his recruitment over the final two weeks of the transfer window could dictate how long the sun continues to shine on Wednesday.

The signing of striker Stevie May 10 days ago pleased a lot of fans but Gray also wants another forward, a winger and a central defender to add competition for places in his squad.

He is already beginning to feel the injury pinch with midfield play-maker Kieran Lee sent for a scan on a groin injury yesterday and ruled out for an undetermined amount of time.

Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday LLLWWD; Millwall DDWWWW.

Referee: N Miller (County Durham).

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Millwall 2; August 24, 2013; Championship.