Michael Smith on why Sheffield Wednesday make a song and dance of breaking the ice (ice, baby)

NEITHER John Buckley nor Jeff Hendrick have made their Sheffield Wednesday debuts yet – both could at home to Ipswich Town on Saturday – but have already been put on the spot by manager Xisco Munoz.

The midfielders signed on deadline evening were made to perform in front of their new team-mates during the international break. Given the option to sing or dance, Buckley belted out Stand By Me, Hendrick rapped Ice, Ice Baby.

Maybe Hendrick understood the point was to break the ice.

"The manager does his best to put the new boys on the spot straight away," says Michael Smith. "He gets them singing in the first training session in the middle of the boys.

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"I don't like it at the time but I understand the manager's thinking. I'm useless at singing."

After a summer of 12 signings, it must have been like Middlewood's Got Talent at times.

"Gassa (Djeidi Gassma) had a few good moves," says Smith. "Bucko sang Stand By Me, he was all right, Jeff sang on Thursday but there's been more dancers this season."

If it all sounds pretty trivial, there is an important point beyond the need for light relief as chairman Dejphon Chansiri and ex-manager Darren Moore argue about the latter’s departure and the players’ union looking into Marvin Johnson being asked to train alone after being excluded from the squad list.

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ICE-BREAKER: New Sheffield Wednesday midfielder - and rapper - Jeff HendrickICE-BREAKER: New Sheffield Wednesday midfielder - and rapper - Jeff Hendrick
ICE-BREAKER: New Sheffield Wednesday midfielder - and rapper - Jeff Hendrick

An all-British cast has had a foreign infusion this summer and moulding them is tricky. The 0-0 draw at Leeds United suggested they might be getting somewhere.

It was less about their first point of 2023-24, more the togetherness needed in a backs-to-the-wall effort. That probably owes something to barriers broken by making an idiot of oneself in front of new team-mates.

"Making the new boys sing makes them feel part of it straight away," argues Smith. "Moving to a new club in this country is hard enough but when you've got boys coming from abroad with the language barrier, it does really help.

"We've got quite a welcoming group, there's always people laughing and carrying on, so for the new boys to see that, they'll want to be a part of it.

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LEVITY: Sheffield Wednesday manager Xisco MunozLEVITY: Sheffield Wednesday manager Xisco Munoz
LEVITY: Sheffield Wednesday manager Xisco Munoz

"It's just about putting a lot of trust in the boys the manager's brought in and I'm sure the boys have a lot of trust in the manager. You can see it day to day in training. You can tell a lot from a footballer by the amount they put in Monday to Friday.

"A clean sheet at Elland Road would have been a good result if we'd been top of the league so I think we can take a lot from that football-wise and the mentality. There's a lot of tough away games and there's going to be a lot of scraps."

Smith has had to get to know Munoz too.

“Training took a bit of getting used to but over the last four or five weeks I've really enjoyed it,” he says.

"It was about knowing the job he wanted from me. It was about one-on-one conversations with him and his staff and videos because I'm more of a visual learner."

Between the giggles and heckles, hopefully Hendrick's new friends took note as he quoted that great philosopher of the age, Vanilla Ice: "Stop! Collaborate and listen."