Sheffield Wednesday play waiting game as Steve Bruce’s arrival is delayed

INCOMING: New Sheffield Wednesday manager, Steve Bruce. Picture: Tony Johnson.
INCOMING: New Sheffield Wednesday manager, Steve Bruce. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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IN the gloriously unpredictable world of the Championship, anything can happen and often does.

Steve Bruce will officially take charge of Sheffield Wednesday on February 1 and should the Owls continue their recent resurgence, then a top-10 finish is not beyond the realms of comprehension.

Whisper it gently, but perhaps even better, too.

Those who have the ear of Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri would attest to that viewpoint with the Thai businessman having not yet given up hope of a surprise top-six push.

For many, that would be seen as wildly ambitious. Wednesday, despite their uplifting four-match unbeaten sequence, are seven points behind where Fulham were at the same stage of last season ahead of a magnificent run in the second half of 2017-18 which ended with the Cottagers being promoted via the play-offs.

But given a fixture list which – aside from the trip to form side Hull City on Saturday week – looks benign until the start of March, it is not quite as far-fetched as it seems.

SO CLOSE: Adam Reach goes close in the final stages to securing a victory Sheffield Wednesday would have deserved. Picture: Steve Ellis

SO CLOSE: Adam Reach goes close in the final stages to securing a victory Sheffield Wednesday would have deserved. Picture: Steve Ellis

After facing the Tigers, the Owls have scheduled home games with lower mid-table duo Wigan and Brentford before travelling to bottom club Ipswich to start off February – in what is set to be Bruce’s first appointment in charge.

Struggling Reading follow at Hillsborough before trips to relegation-threatened Millwall and Rotherham United ahead of February ending at home to Swansea, although the games with the Millers and Bees could be subject to change due to the FA Cup.

Bruce’s long-time coaching associates Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence will take charge of the Owls until his arrival, with caretaker coach Lee Bullen remaining part of the senior set-up.

For the time being, Bruce – who won’t take over until the start of next month due to prior personal commitments during January – can rest assured in the knowledge that Wednesday have been in safe hands under the interim stewardship of Bullen.

We are quite far away from the play-offs at the minute, but there are always teams who have that late run and let us hope that it is us.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Adam Reach.

The Owls’ morale-boosting recent sequence of form and results has extinguished immediate fears of falling into a grim Championship relegation fight this season – with the Owls very much looking upwards as opposed to over their shoulders.

Two unlucky draws with Midlands duo Birmingham City and West Bromwich – which could and should have yielded wins – have followed festive victories over Middlesbrough and Preston North End.

A haul of eight points from the 12 available could easily have yielded a maximum return, but for everyone connected with Wednesday, the glass is very much half-full again with the club boasting their joint-longest run without a league defeat in 2018-19.

The arrival of Bruce, a ‘player’s manager’ whom senior players have related to and clicked with during his time at the likes of Hull City and Aston Villa, will further add to the feelgood factor at the club – should positive results continue.

Confident that the Owls have plenty to look forward to between now and May and can finish the season in rewarding fashion, winger Adam Reach commented: “We played well practically for the whole game against Birmingham.

“We have not taken as many wins as we would want to, but if we continue to play like this with the new manager, we have a really good chance towards getting to the top end (half) of the league table.

“We are quite far away from the play-offs at the minute, but there are always teams who have that late run and let us hope that it is us.”

That Wednesday players are speaking with such confidence is testament to the sterling work of Bullen in his interim spell in charge.

It was a period which promised to be problematic at the outset, but it has been handled with dexterity and aplomb by Bullen, who has reintegrated senior players into the fold – most notably goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson – and got the Owls playing together as a true team again.

It has made a potentially difficult time in the Owls’ season a fair bit smoother, with Bullen deserving of the plaudits that are coming his way after impressively steadying the ship.

Reach, speaking after the draw with Birmingham in front of a season’s best crowd at Hillsborough, added: “It is not ideal, of course.

“Everyone has been in a bit of limbo not knowing if they are coming or going.

“But Bully has been great and has just told us to concentrate on the games. The games are coming thick and fast and we have not had much time to think about anything else.

“He has not done anything special, but just made us aware that we are good players. He has brought some experienced lads back in and they have a bit more confidence as they had not been involved under the last manager.

“We have just told each other to get back to basics. Let’s run, let’s work hard and fight and I think the fans have seen that never-say-die attitude and that we are not going to give in.

“They have seen work rate, energy and effort has been there with some really good play.”