‘Players get an opportunity every time they walk through them gates’ is one of Dave Jones’s favourite phrases.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager is a great believer that footballers should be fully committed to every aspect of their working lives and not just the hours spent out on the pitch.
In the modern era where flash cars and high wages can sometimes distort that mantra, Giles Coke is one footballer who has taken his manager at his word.
The 26-year-old looked like his Hillsborough days were numbered, having spent loans at Bury and Swindon Town over the last 18 months.
He only returned from Wiltshire early before Christmas because he picked up a serious injury and, with his Owls contract up in the summer, he had dropped off the radar for most Hillsborough regulars.
So Coke was as surprised as anyone when he was handed a recall by Jones for the trip to Hull City last month – his first league game for Wednesday in 20 months, and his first game at Championship level.
He capped an impressive evening at the KC Stadium in a 3-1 victory by going on to retain the jersey for the last four matches which has seen the Owls pick up 10 points out of a possible 12.
“It’s been very frustrating the last 18 months, but I have worked hard, I have been on loan and done what I have had to do,” said Coke.
“I am very grateful now to the manager, and the staff, that they have given me the opportunity to show what I can do.
“The manager has told me I am doing well – the whole team is doing really well, it’s not just me – and to continue what I am doing, don’t let my standards drop.
“I was on loan twice, so you start thinking you are not wanted, but I have always believed in my ability.
“If it wasn’t here then somewhere else; I have always believed I would succeed.
“I am so happy that I am back at Sheffield Wednesday because I have always wanted to play for this club since I have been here.
“It was out of the blue when I got picked to play against Hull. I didn’t even know until the day before. I am just so happy to get some consistency back into my game.
“I am happy with the way I have been playing, I still think I can give more. Obviously, I think the whole team have helped.
“It’s nice to be liked, but I am a level-headed person and know it’s only been four games.
“I want to continue and see how many games I can play until the end of the season, keep at the consistency I am playing at, and see where it takes me.
“We have a good bunch of boys here, great team spirit, but I think the main thing is we have all stuck together. We haven’t sulked; the players that haven’t been playing have still helped those who are playing, and I think it’s made a big difference.”
Wednesday head into today’s home game with Derby on the back of an impressive two-month spell, which has seen them win six, draw two and lose just once in nine Championship games.
That has mainly been based around a midfield quartet who no one, even probably Jones himself, could have predicted when the season kicked off back in August.
Partnering Coke in the centre of midfield is David Prutton, another whose Owls days seemed to be ending after a lengthy loan spell at Scunthorpe United.
But the former Southampton midfielder took his chance due to injuries and has cemented his spot, his experience so valuable with rookies either side of him in Kieran Lee on the right and Jeremy Helan on the left.
Question marks were raised about Lee, when his two brief appearances in September ended in defeats, but Jones was patient and the summer signing from Oldham has been converted from right-back to a wide midfielder.
Left-back Helan was drafted in on loan but was switched to the left wing where the Manchester City youngster has excelled.
It is a change of fortune not lost on Coke.
“For me and Prutton, it came completely out of the blue,” he said. “We went on loan, and have come back and with both starting together, I guess there’s hope for everyone in the squad. Who wouldn’t want to be at this club, it’s a massive club with a great fan base. I would love to stay here if I got the opportunity.
“Hull was my first ever Championship game. I have loved it, it’s a strong league with really good players and you want to test yourself against them.
“I have always said I would love to play in the Championship and since I have had my chance, you can tell the standard is higher. People are technically better, stronger, faster and there’s a lot of quality players in this league.
“We have had a lot of players in this season and it does take time for things to gel as a team. You can’t just click your fingers and it works like that. It’s taken a little bit longer for us, but everyone is very happy now, smiling and confident.”
With Nigel Clough’s side visiting Hillsborough, Coke believes it offers Wednesday another chance to pull away from the drop zone.
“Derby are a very good team, with a lot of young players,” said London-born Coke, who had spells at Mansfield, Northampton and Motherwell in Scotland before landing a move to Wednesday in 2010. “It will be a tough test for us.
“But we know what have to do, and if we give 100 per cent like we have been doing, I am sure we can get something out of the game.
“In the Championship, anyone can beat anyone on their day. It’s a very strong, competitive league.”