JOS LUHUKAY’S command of the English vocabulary may still be a work in progress, but say the words ‘treatment room’ and he is sure to understand you.
Sheffield Wednesday’s experienced head coach may be barely a month into his Hillsborough tenure, but the 54-year-old has not seen anything before quite like what he has witnessed on the injury front at his new club despite a coaching career spanning almost two decades.
The Dutchman was handed a baptism of fire ahead of his first match in charge of the Owls in their Steel City derby at Sheffield United on January 12, with a virtual team of first-choice regulars being out.
Little has changed on that count ahead of another derby tomorrow, atBarnsley.
Nothing quite told the injury-ravaged, scarcely believable tale of Wednesday’s selection misfortunes this season more than the latest blow to befall them.
It arrived with the news that Marco Matias, fresh from having his red card rescinded by the Football Association following his dismissal against Birmingham City last Saturday, would, in fact, miss tomorrow’s game at Oakwell anyway due to a knee injury, which will keep him sidelined for three weeks.
It was another untimely blow for Luhukay, still awaiting his first league win as Owls chief, but something Wednesday are becoming well versed in coping with.
Admitting he has never before in his coaching career encountered such a horrendous injury situation, with at least 11 confirmed absentees this weekend due to injury and another suspended in Daniel Pudil, Luhukay said: “This is extreme that so many players from the beginning do not stay on the field and are in the medical situation.
“Sometimes you have three or four or maybe five and that is as much. But now here in the last six months it has been very intensive. But it is how it is, I cannot change that situation.”
Injuries, for the umpteenth time this season, hogged attentions at the Owls’ latest pre-match press call, with Luhukay’s update providing little solace for Wednesdayites looking nervously over their shoulders towards the Championship drop zone, with work still to do for the club to retain their divisional status in a turbulent campaign.
Luhukay confirmed that Steven Fletcher, out since early December with a knee injury, is likely to miss the rest of the season, while Fernando Forestieri is still a long way away from a return after being sidelined with a knee issue since late August.
With the likes of Gary Hooper, Kieran Lee, Barry Bannan, Sam Hutchinson and Keiren Westwood also absent, Wednesday are a side who are barely recognisable from the one that reached the play-offs for two seasons running, with it effectively left to Luhukay to pick up the pieces.
On the situation with Fletcher and Forestieri, Luhukay, who has not seen around half of his squad take the field for the club yet, said: “Steven is recovering from a knee injury and we will be waiting for a long time. He will not play this season.
“He (Forestieri) is not at this moment in England, but he will come at the end of the month and make his recovery here. For Fernando and a lot of players, we have to be patient.”
Another week of disruption on the training field has seen captain Glenn Loovens miss training due to illness, while Jacob Butterfield has also been absent.
The litany of luckless fortune also means that defender Joost van Aken has been told to rest an extra week due to a muscle injury, although Tom Lees could feature in an Under-23 game at Huddersfield on Monday.
But for the time being, and a fair while yet, it is all hands to the pump as it was at Bramall Lane.
Attempting to sound as stoic as he can in the circumstances ahead of another derby where the build-up has not been ideal, Luhukay opined: “You always have pressure, but you must be cool with that. We must not be afraid of a derby – we saw it against (Sheffield) United. The team is prepared for that.”