Diligent Gray stays under the radar to plot Owls’ escape

Stuart Gray
Stuart Gray
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Stuart Gray expects to be Sheffield Wednesday manager going into Christmas if the Owls can cause a shock at Vicarage Road today.

Gray is caretaker-manager following the sacking of Dave Jones two weeks ago, quietly getting on with the job in hand of getting Wednesday out of the Championship relegation zone.

While chairman Milan Mandaric has hogged the headlines with aborted moves for Rotherham United manager Steve Evans and former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock, Gray has been hard at work at the club’s Middlewood Road training ground.

A stunning win over Leicester City was swiftly followed by an impressive, hard-grafting display against Nottingham Forest. The latter ultimately ended in defeat, but there were promising signs that Gray had engineered some promise to a side which had slowly lost its way under Jones.

Now Gray has the chance to convince Mandaric he is the man to keep Wednesday in the Championship this season.

“I think I’m here for the foreseeable future,” said Gray. “I’m in charge for the next game, then we take it from there.

“The chairman has been up to the training ground, with Paul Aldridge – we had a quick five-minute chat. He just wants to know the injury front. It’s nice for him to show his face; the players can get to see him; he mingles around the players.

“I’ve had several chats with him and he’s said carry on for the foreseeable future.

“I think after the Leicester game and after the Forest game people might have thought there’d be somebody in, but at the moment there’s nobody in so I carry on until I’m told different.”

Does Gray believe he is in the frame, with former England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce also linked to the job?

“I think so, because I’m doing a job,” he added. “I’m disappointed we didn’t get anything against Forest. I thought we deserved a draw. I think perhaps the intensity of the Leicester game caught up with one or two. One lapse cost us, and Forest have players who have played in the Premier League and can hurt you.”

After today, the Owls have back-to-back games at Hillsborough before Christmas which could be key to helping Wednesday out of the bottom three.

Does Gray expect to be in charge for Wednesday night’s visit of FA Cup winners Wigan, and then Bournemouth 72 hours later?

“Yes, because we’ll get a decent result at Watford. That’s how I’m planning the team,” he stressed.

“It’s a great set-up here, a good atmosphere and good team spirit. We need to take that into these games.

“All I ask from the players is 100 per cent – so if you fail it’s on ability not on application.

“I’m probably a hard task-master because I put the pressure on the players to deliver.

“On Saturday, we were playing a team who’ve gone fourth in the Championship and I don’t think there was much difference between the teams.”

Wednesday face a Watford side who drew 3-3 at Leeds United last time out but have not win in their last eight games.

Not that Gray is distracted by that run of results for the Hertfordshire club.

“They’re a quality side, with quality players and good pace,” he said. “They play 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 or 4-4-1-1. Gianfranco Zola does keep on changing his system. You defend with 11 and attack with 11: shape doesn’t win or lose games, players win or lose games.”

With the Owls having seven games in December, and a very small squad, Gray knows he will have to be lucky to avoid injuries.

“You’re having to put certain players in cotton wool and get them going again,” he said. “I’m pleased we’ve got the extra day of rest before the Wigan game on Wednesday – more often than not we play on Tuesday. I’ll ask the players with knocks and strains to go again. The treatment room is far too full for mine, the chairman’s and the fans’ liking.”

“We’ve got Glenn Loovens, and Kieran Lee; they’ve steadied the ship and done a good job.

“Jacques Maghoma has come in and looked like the player we knew in pre-season, before he got injured. he’s now back to the intensity and match fitness that’s required.

“The only problem now is that they haven’t had a proper pre-season; they might just level off a bit or get a slight strain; that’s the worry at the moment.”