Garry Monk braced for ‘difficult’ decisions at Sheffield Wednesday

The coronavirus has changed many things, but not Sheffield Wednesday’s desire to keep Steven Fletcher and Morgan Fox or, it would seem, Garry Monk’s determination to move on from Keiren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson.
Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sam Hutchinson. Picture: Steve EllisSheffield Wednesday midfielder Sam Hutchinson. Picture: Steve Ellis
Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sam Hutchinson. Picture: Steve Ellis

A shoulder injury explains why goalkeeper Westwood was missing when the Owls returned to their Middlewood Road training ground last week, but Monk’s talk of making “difficult and unpopular” decisions suggest that even with the last nine matches of the season set to be squeezed into around a month, and even if Championship clubs are allowed to use five substitutes, Hutchinson will not add to his 154 appearances for Wednesday.

And although the club is still working out exactly what the pandemic will mean for them financially, their enthusiasm for extending the contracts of Fletcher and Fox beyond this season has not changed either having taken up the option of extending Joey Pelupessy’s deal.

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“They know very much I want them to stay,” said Monk of Fletcher and Fox, two of the Owls’ best performers this season. “The club has been in talks with them. When this (coronavirus) hit, we were in conversations with those two and we still are in conversations with them.

“My hope is that they will stay beyond this season.

“It will then be down to the decisions of those players with the conversations they are having contractually with the club.

“Hopefully there can be an agreement and an understanding of how the situation has changed with this pandemic.

“We still have time for that and those conversations are ongoing.”

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Top-scorer Fletcher and defender Fox are amongst nine players whose contracts are due to expire at the end of this month now midfielder Pelupessy’s agent has confirmed the Owls have taken up a 12-month option to keep him. Wednesday, who also have five players on loan, have until June 23 to agree short-term extensions to cover the rest of the season.

Three players due to leave Charlton Athletic this summer have told manager Lee Bowyer they do not want to risk an injury which could hinder a move, but when it comes to his players, Monk says: “There have been no conversation or chats of any reservations at this time.

“You’re waiting as well to see when officially, for definite, these fixtures are going to be and when they start and finish. I know they’ve announced a (provisional June 20) start date but there’s still debate around it so once we get that 100 per cent clarification and the EFL turn around and say they’re moving it back a week or the 20th is that date, this is 100 per cent definite, because there are still a lot of things that have to be decided like what we do with travel, the media side of it and a lot of other things that haven’t come to a conclusion yet.”

Monk appears to be in no mood to compromise on Westwood and Hutchinson, who he has frozen out of his plans this season.

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“On contract and out-of-contract players and the decisions you would have to make in any situation, part of my job is I have to make decisions that some people might not like,” he said. “I’ve had to do it constantly for six years, making difficult decisions not everyone agrees with. But I try and make them always with the right intention for the future of the club and where I feel the squad needs to go. I’ll continue to do that.

“The most important bit is the club agrees with them and understand the reasons behind it.

“Sam is part of that situation, but I’ve had clear chats with Sam, he understands where he is, I’ve had clear discussions with him like I have done with all the players.

“That’s just part of my job – I have to take that responsibility. Everyone will have their opinions on that whether it’s right or wrong but I have the support of the club to move that forward.”

Westwood is unfit to train regardless.

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“He has a shoulder injury,” explained his manager. “He was nursing that before all this.

“Speaking to the medical guys, he is coming more and more back to full health now. In terms of his return to fitness, I think he is still a little bit of a way off.”

Westwood has a seventh season on his contract but Hutchinson, who initially joined on loan from Chelsea in 2014, is one those whose deal expires at the end of this month. Championship clubs have been set a provisional return date of June 20 – though Monk has argued it should be put back a week as his club only returns to contact training today – and are due to play nine rounds of fixtures in time to complete the play-offs “on or around” July 30.

Despite his concerns about future injuries, Monk says: “The majority of the group – 95 per cent of them – have come back in excellent condition which shows they’ve really done their home programmes and probably gone above them to be ready. I’ve been very pleased, they’ve worked very hard we’ve come back in.

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“Players have had time to reflect and understand themselves. From my point of view, it is a case of understanding what we can do going forward.”

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