Opportunity knocks for Sheffield Wednesday strikers to step up

INJURY BLOW: Sheffield Wednesday's leading goalscorer Steven Fletcher is out for up to 10 weeks. Picture: Steve Ellis
INJURY BLOW: Sheffield Wednesday's leading goalscorer Steven Fletcher is out for up to 10 weeks. Picture: Steve Ellis
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Sheffield Wednesday boss Garry Monk is looking to sign two strikers in the January transfer window after losing top scorer Steven Fletcher to injury.

The Owls manager had already pinpointed the need to bolster his attacking options this month.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk. Picture: Steve Ellis

Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk. Picture: Steve Ellis

But after seeing Fletcher ruled out for “eight to 10 weeks” – after the Scotland international was stretchered off after injuring his knee in last weekend’s FA Cup win at Brighton – Monk is now desperate to sign two forwards on loan until the end of the season.

No deals are expected to be concluded before tomorrow’s trip to Leeds United, although one player who has been linked with a return to Yorkshire is Eddie Nketiah.

The 20-year-old spent the first half of the season on loan at Elland Road, but the Arsenal youngster is set for another short-term move with Bristol City and Nottingham Forest also keen.

Monk had wanted to bring in three loan players in during January, but now may have to revise those plans.

It probably puts more emphasis on that side of things. Also, it’s for people to step up to the plate, with an opportunity and prove they can do that.

Garry Monk

“We were looking at our attacking (options) anyway,” said Monk.

“Going into the window, with the players fit, (the target) was to add to what we have got. Now losing one of your key players, not only is it the original (plan) to help, but it’s now to replace as well.

“But we are looking at a market of loans, which is competitive, and the type of window that it is, a lot of teams are after the same players.

“It’s difficult, but we are working hard behind the scenes to see if we can get to a solution on a few options. That’s ongoing.”

Sheffield Wednesday striker Sam Winnall could be an option for Garry Monk at Leeds on Saturday. Picture: Steve Ellis

Sheffield Wednesday striker Sam Winnall could be an option for Garry Monk at Leeds on Saturday. Picture: Steve Ellis

But Monk refused to comment on reports linking Nketiah with the Owls.

“We have got our targets, and it’s competitive, competing against other teams,” he said. “But we will keep that (identities) to ourselves.

“I have seen us linked with every name. A lot of that can be agent-driven, to put players out there, players who are looking to move.

“I don’t need to worry about speculation, we have our targets. Hopefully, we will have some news on that soon.”

Apart from Fletcher’s 12 goals this season, the Owls’ other strikers have struggled in front of goal.

Lucas Joao was sold to Reading in August, Atdhe Nuhiu has netted four goals, Sam Winnall once, while Jordan Rhodes has not scored all season apart from a first-half hat-trick at Forest last month.

Fernando Forestieri – set to return to training next week – has also only found the net once this season, although his campaign has been disrupted by injuries and suspensions.

Monk must hope one, or two, of those strikers can step forward and fill the gap left by Fletcher.

“When you lose your top goalscorer – and those goals – but not just that, the way he was performing, of course it’s a blow,” said Monk.

“We have to deal with that, and if we can help in the window, we will.

“It probably puts more emphasis on that side of things. Also, it’s for people to step up to the plate, with an opportunity and prove they can do that.”

Wednesday go to Leeds looking to avoid a fourth consecutive league defeat.

Three losses in the week after Christmas look to have sabotaged the Owls’ automatic promotion hopes – they sit 13 points adrift of the top two – although Wednesday did bounce back to knock Premier League side Brighton out of the FA Cup last Saturday.

That win was overshadowed by the injury to Fletcher, with initial fears the former Sunderland and Wolves striker could miss the rest of the season.

“When you looked at his initial reaction and how he was, it looked like it was very serious,” said Monk.

“He’s had the scan and we thought it looked like it was going to be a very serious one, but he’s come back and structurally his knee is fine.

“It’s a blow for us, to lose our top goal-scorer, in such good form. It’s bitter-sweet, in that it potentially could have been his season over but it is still a blow because it is a significant period.

“There are no surgery needs, just proper rehab. The time-frame we have been given by the specialist is eight to 10 weeks. That’s not ideal, but the fear straightaway and the hours afterwards, was that it was a season-ender.

“It was an innocuous challenge, something you do thousands of times in training.

“He jumped like normal, but landed on the player’s foot. Slipping off that foot, is what left him in an awkward position.

“He’s experienced enough, a real professional, and he understands what he needs to do. He will focus on that and give himself the best opportunity of getting back as early as possible.

“He is determined to come back. He was on course for his best ever goals tally in a season, he would have smashed that – if I am honest with you – the way he was going about his work, and he will still have time to beat that when he comes back.”