Liam Palmer knows first-hand the quality of player Sheffield Wednesday have secured with the club record £5m purchase of Adam Reach.
The 23-year-old winger, who arrived at Hillsborough just before the transfer window closed in a deal which eclipsed the £4.5m fee paid for Paolo Di Canio, made a huge impression on the Owls right-back in the colours of Middlesbrough.
Reach is due to make his Wednesday debut at Hillsborough today against Wigan, and Palmer is relieved not to be facing the former Boro wideman this time.
Reach netted for Boro at Hillsborough 12 months ago, in a 3-1 win, before going out on loan to Preston North End. He was then in the Preston team that beat the Owls at Deepdale in February.
Right-back Palmer, 24, having come face-to-face with the left winger, is a big fan.
“Adam is a great down-to-earth lad. In training you can see his touch and acceleration, he has a bit of skill,” said Palmer.
“As a fellow player, it’s great to see him coming in.
“I played against him against Middlesbrough a couple of times, the season before last, and he was really good.
“I think he can be a key player in unlocking defences, a match-winning type player – not to put any pressure on him.”
Reach, Burnley midfielder David Jones and former Ajax defender Urby Emanuelson have capped off an impressive Hillsborough recruitment drive over the summer.
Throw in the likes of Scotland striker Steven Fletcher and former Watford midfielder Almen Abdi and Palmer believes Wednesday have a better squad than the one that reached last season’s Championship play-off final.
He said: “One hundred per cent. With every player who comes through the door they are always going to add something different.
“With Reach, for example, he was one of the toughest opponents I have come up against in the league.
“He is direct, quick, good at crossing, has an eye for an assist and hopefully a goal. For him, personally, he will be great for us.
“Also David Jones, you saw him sit in front of the back four at Brentford, that’s probably something we haven’t done in the weeks before. He did great.
“Everyone has something they can bring to the team, makes us more of a threat, and more flexible.”
After the 1-0 defeat at Wembley to Hull City, expectations of Wednesday – mainly external – have been impossibly high.
A meagre return of just five points from their first five games, and only three goals scored, have dampened the mood. Sam Hutchinson’s late equaliser at Brentford a fortnight ago gave the Owls a deserved point, on an afternoon where they delivered their best display of the season.
Only poor finishing denied Wednesday victory and Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal will demand his strikers end their goals drought quickly.
Former Academy youngster Palmer – the club’s longest serving player – denies the Owls’ poor start is a result of their play-off heartache.
“I don’t think it’s been a hangover, but obviously it’s in the back of your mind,” he said.
“Like a lot of people have said, and I know the manager has stressed, we want to use that disappointment. We have come up against some tough tests, good sides, and I know the gaffer wants us to use our last game as the hallmark for our identity as a team. We are back to where he wants us to be.
“The way we played in the first half, then scoring a goal late on, it always feels like you have gained a point rather than lost two.
“The expectations are there, we know that, we are expected to be up there and it hasn’t been a great start.
“Hopefully now, with time to work on things during the international break, we can start the ball rolling.
“We have a lot more to analyse, various videos, as units – defenders meeting away from attackers – and brushing up on the finer details.”
The lack of goals is an obvious concern, but the Owls have enough quality in their forward line of Fernando Forestieri, Gary Hooper, Lucas Joao, Atdhe Nuhiu and Steven Fletcher that it can only be a temporary problem.
The latter actually netted his first goal of the season this week, scoring in Scotland’s World Cup qualifier in Malta.
Fletcher, and midfielder Barry Bannan, were excellent for the Scots and arrived back at Middlewood Road buzzing with confidence.
Palmer said: “I think it’s quite evident from the last game, we had a lot of chances in the first half, and I am sure once we start converting them we will have no trouble in winning games.
“The lads are creating the chances, getting in the box, in the right areas, it’s just that last touch which we need to brush up on.
“Fletch got his goal in midweek, so hopefully he will be buzzing with confidence and get off the mark.
“You start to worry when the chances don’t come. Against Brentford we probably had five or six good chances to put the game to bed, that’s probably the frustrating thing.
“I watched the Scotland game; Baz played fantastic and ran the show.
“They both looked really good, and have come back beaming and full of confidence.”
Wednesday will have to shuffle their midfield today as Jones serves a one-match suspension for his sending-off at Brentford last time out.