SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY head coach Stuart Gray has moved quickly to plug the gap left by injury casualty Jose Semedo by bringing in Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner on an emergency loan.
The Owls must make do without their former captain for the next two months after X-rays revealed he fractured his tibula and sustained ankle ligament damage after falling awkwardly in the second-half of Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Uwe Rosler’s Wigan Athletic.
The fans’ favourite, out of contract in June, will visit a surgeon in London tomorrow, with Gray compensating for his absence by raiding old club Villa to sign Gardner, initially until March 12.
Gardner, who has not kicked a ball for Villa’s first team this season and whose own deal expires this summer, is behind Fabian Delph, Ashley Westwood, Karim El-Amhadi and Yacouba Sylla in the pecking order at Villa Park.
Manager Paul Lambert has revealed that any discussions about a new deal for the 22-year-old are likely to have to wait until season’s end, with Gardner needing to impress during his stint in South Yorkshire to give himself the best chance of earning fresh terms.
Gardner, brother of Sunderland star Craig, is eligible to play in the Owls’ FA Cup fifth-round clash against Charlton on Saturday, with his last first-team appearance coming as a late sub in Villa’s final-day draw at Wigan last May.
The arrival of the ex-England Under-21 international, who was reportedly also a target for the Owls’ city rivals Sheffield United, bolsters Gray’s squad options, with the 53-year-old also keen on bringing in a centre-half and centre-forward to boost his numbers further in future weeks.
Speaking after Tuesday’s game, Gray said: “The problem is at the minute we seem to gain one, but seem to lose another player.
“At this moment, we don’t seem to get that consistency (in selection). I looked at my bench against Wigan and it was down to the bare bones and (then) at Uwe’s in terms of what he had on the bench and in the stands as well. But we have to got on with it, that’s part and parcel of the game.”
After a fantastic start to 2014, Gray’s side suffered a reality check at the hands of the Latics, who inflicted a first defeat in 12 matches on Wednesday, whose longest unbeaten run since the promotion season of 2011-12 ended abruptly.
Tuesday was simply an evening when little went right for the Owls, who handed a debut to Cardiff City loanee Adedeji Oshilana.
Despite the margin of victory for the visitors, the display of the 20-year-old defender, denied a debut at Reading at the weekend after failing to receive international clearance, represented a positive for Gray, who felt his newcomer had a decent evening.
While the scoreline wasn’t something he would have wished for, Oshilana admitted to a sense of relief at taking the field for his new club after a fair bit of frustration after being thwarted by red tape issues on Saturday.
The Londoner, who turns 21 later this month, is hoping to come of age during his time at Hillsborough, where he has his own guiding hand in the shape of vastly-experienced midfielder Stephen McPhail.
The former Leeds United and Barnsley schemer mentored the young defender during their brief time together at Cardiff and his presence at the club ticked another box ahead of his move north.
Oshilana, who spent a spell on loan at League Two outfit Newport County earlier this term, said: “I went into training on Friday morning and my coach pulled me in and told me Sheffield Wednesday were interested. I was buzzing as they are a massive club.
“I jumped at the chance to play Championship football which is a big step from League Two at Newport where I had done well.
“I also know Stephen from Cardiff and he was my mentor back there and to join up with him again was a massive boost and before I signed the papers, I got a phone call from him saying this was a massive club and that I’d love it here, with it being a good test in terms of Championship football. That was another plus point for coming here.
“I have a friend who is a bit of football genius and he knows everything about every club and said that Wednesday were the first club he supported when (Paolo) Di Canio was there. He gave me the head-ups how big the club were. The fanbase is crazy; when I announced on Twitter I had joined, loads of fans welcomed me here.”
Oshilana, who has joined for an initial month, added: “I just want to improve and get that experience playing against clever strikers and wingers and dealing with different situations and taking it back to Cardiff and pushing on.
“Tuesday’s game was a really fast tempo with no time on the ball and I enjoyed it, just a shame about that result. But I am sure all aspects of my game will improve while I am here.
He added: “Saturday was really frustrating as I was really excited and raring to go. But things happen and that’s football and you just have to deal with the setbacks.
Oshilana is ineligible for the weekend cup appointment with Charlton, with Gray to give Glenn Loovens as much time as possible to prove his fitness following a hamstring strain prior to the game.