Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal insists there has been no behind-the-scenes fall-out with Lewis McGugan.
The Owls have yet to win in the Championship since their opening day victory over Bristol City, but summer signing McGugan has only played three times this season.
The midfielder was not even a substitute for the away trips to Burnley and Bolton Wanderers, leading to speculation Carvalhal and McGugan had clashed.
But the Owls head coach yesterday insisted there was nothing sinister in the player’s omission, and he was just a victim of a healthy squad which saw several first-team players left on the sidelines.
Carvalhal – who revealed McGugan would be included in tomorrow’s match-day 18 to face Fulham at Hillsborough – said he was keen to bring the player from Watford this summer, having impressed in two different loan spells under former boss Stuart Gray last season.
“I pushed a lot to bring him to the club,” insisted Carvalhal. “He’s not been in the 18 in the last two matches but he is a player who I pushed to come here. If there was one person who pushed for him to come here this season, it was me.
“Just because he has not been in the squad doesn’t mean I don’t like the player.
“We have quality players in a lot of positions but I can only play 11. That is football so we have to make decisions.
“If one player plays on Saturday, another good player will stay out. If you win, everything is okay. If we lose, it is because we miss that player. It is normal in football. That is the life of football.
“He is training very well and something has changed in the mind in the last few days and he can be important to us in the future.
“He has trained much better in the last few days. He will probably be in the 18 on Saturday. I like him a lot, but not all the players can play at the same time.”
The 26-year-old former Nottingham Forest midfielder recently became a father, and his coach believes that can be a demanding time for a footballer.
“He is now a father and has more responsibility,” he said. “We grow up with these kind of situations. I am happy with him all the time.
“In the period when he became a father three weeks or so ago, he was not completely stabalised because his wife was in and out of hospital. When the boy was born, he started to train very well and much better than in the past.
“I’m sure if he plays he will do very well. If he plays for 30-40 minutes, he will play very good and I am absolutely sure about that.
“I am happy to have someone with that sort of spirit and everyone feels a part of the team. I am absolutely sure Lewis feels a part of the team and can help us.”
Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood could return tomorrow after a month out injured, but midfielder Sam Hutchinson serves a one-game ban.
With 15 new players joining Wednesday this summer – Fernando Forestieri, Michael Turner and Daniel Pudil are set for Hillsborough debuts – the Owls have options in most positions.
This luxury means Carvalhal has several first-team players not in the match-day 18 and sat in the stands every game.
Asked about unhappy players, Carvalhal told The Yorkshire Post: ”It’s normal in football. We trained today and I saw very nice faces with all the players. When they don’t play, they aren’t happy but I felt a good atmosphere in the squad.
“We have almost two players in every position.
“I might play today but you could play tomorrow if I have a small problem, red card or my performance comes down. Things can change in one second in football.
“You can go from not being in the squad and 18 to being in the side.
“If I have a little problem with my little finger and I can’t play for three weeks, then you will play and stay in the team. I believe we are in a good way.”
Since the opening day win over Bristol City, the Owls have lost three and drawn three. The last two games saw a 3-1 loss at Burnley, plus a 0-0 draw at Bolton.
The six-game winless run has left the Owls just a point off the bottom three, but Carvalhal – in his first season in English football – is not worried.
“We put pressure on ourselves,” he said. “I have a lot of experience in the football. You can feel when your players are under negative pressure.
“We trained today and the atmosphere was very good. The players are happy and confident.
“We believe in what we are doing and so do the players. The pressure is positive because of how we have played. If it was the opposite and the players felt some negative pressure in the head, I would tell you.”
Performances against Burnley and Bolton have left Carvalhal with optimism, if not points.
“The Burnley and Bolton matches have been much more near my style,” he added. “We have been very aggressive when we don’t have the ball.
“We were more organised but at the same time played positive football and created chances to score goals. I can’t say that everything was perfect but we are near what we want.”