Rather than be pushing for promotion, Adam Reach says Sheffield Wednesday could easily have gone into freefall this season.
The Owls lost manager Steve Bruce less than three weeks before the start of the new Championship campaign and his permanent replacement Garry Monk only took over after six matches.
Despite that, Wednesday are fifth in the table, only three points behind leaders West Bromwich Albion after 14 games and have only lost once in the league under Monk.
Winger Reach believes the squad’s determined mindset has been a hugely important factor in that.
“I think the players themselves have got to take a really big amount of credit because we have had to fight through adversity this summer,” commented the Middlesbrough academy product.
“It is not ideal losing your manager that close to a season and then we didn’t have a permanent manager for a while. I think we have done excellently to be where we are in the league.
We have stuck in there and got ourselves in a good position and finally I think we have got a manager who is the right man at the right time and we have got the quality of players.Sheffield Wednesday’s Adam Reach
“You could have seen teams really easily just get in freefall and drop down that league and end up having too much to do (to win promotion).
“But we have stuck in there and got ourselves in a good position and finally I think we have got a manager who is the right man at the right time and we have got the quality of players.”
Bruce was lured away to manage his boyhood club, Newcastle United, midway through preparations for the 2019-20 campaign. With Lee Bullen taking over as caretaker manager for a third spell, the Owls took their time in selecting Bruce’s long-term replacement.
When they decided on former Leeds United and Middlesbrough manager Monk, Bullen returned to the coaching staff he has served on since 2011.
Reach has been impressed with 40-year-old Monk’s coaching ability, as well as his management skills.
“The manager has come in and he is someone who is improving every player – everyone can say they’ve improved in some area under him,” commented Reach.
“We need to keep that going, there is plenty more work to do and plenty of positives so far but there are areas that we can improve and we are always striving to get better.”
Monk described Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to pre-season title favourites Leeds as a “benchmark” performance for his side, but Reach sees it only as a starting point.
The Owls have won three and drawn two of their last six matches, based largely around a solid defence. They travel to struggling Blackburn Rovers at the weekend.
“There is plenty more work to do,” insisted Reach. “There are still areas we can improve on and we are always striving to get better.
“We’ve got to kick on now after a busy period, we’ve had three tough games and we’ve taken some good points.
“The games come thick and fast, you have a couple of days where you can get your rest in before another busy period again.
“But we’ll be ready for it. I think we’ve proven to everybody that we can be right up there come the end of the season.
“The players themselves have got to take a big amount of credit and I think we’ve done brilliantly to be where we are in the league.”
Meanwhile, left-back Morgan Fox admits his Hillsborough future is out of his hands with his contract due to expire in the summer.
Sunderland had an August bid for Fox rejected, but Fox insists he has tried not to let the speculation about his future affect him.
Fox’s only appearance in September came in the League Cup defeat to Everton, but he has re-established himself in the side for the last three matches, and produced some good form.
“In terms of me and the way I work, I just get on with it and get on with my job,” said Fox of Sunderland’s interest.
“I spoke to (then-caretaker manager Bullen) about it, but I’ve always been committed about doing my job here.
“Whenever I put on a shirt for Wednesday, I always give my most.
“I am enjoying my football and am back in the team now.”
Of his future at the club beyond this season, the 26-year-old could only say: “I have only got until the end of the season and it is out of my hands really.”
After being thwarted in their attempts to sign Fox and others, the Black Cats loaned Belgian Laurens De Bock from Leeds until the end of the season.
Keiren Westwood is one of five goalkeepers in the Republic of Ireland’s provisional squad for matches against New Zealand and Denmark after recovering from an ankle injury.