Sheffield Wednesday debutant Chey Dunkley ready to lead fight against the drop

Chey Dunkley admits he might have pushed himself too hard, too early to play a part in Sheffield Wednesday’s fight against Championship relegation but now he has finally made his debut, he is determined to grit his teeth and get on with it.
Well done: After a delayed Owls debut, Chey Dunkley gets a well done hand-shake from Tony Pulis after being substituted in the second half.  Picture: Steve EllisWell done: After a delayed Owls debut, Chey Dunkley gets a well done hand-shake from Tony Pulis after being substituted in the second half.  Picture: Steve Ellis
Well done: After a delayed Owls debut, Chey Dunkley gets a well done hand-shake from Tony Pulis after being substituted in the second half. Picture: Steve Ellis

Dunkley certainly picked an important game to throw himself into when Julian Borner’s head injury ruled him out of Saturday’s derby against Barnsley. It was Dominik Frieser’s first taste of the fixture and although he experienced it without fans, living in Sheffield meant he understood the importance of his goal to secure a 2-1 win.

It was a significant day for Dunkley, too, his first senior match since a double leg break playing for Wigan Athletic in February. It has been long-awaited, with then-manager Garry Monk initially expecting to have his summer signing much sooner.

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“When you have a big injury, you can have little niggles (as you train again),” explained Dunkley. “My leg got better at eight months and I came back at 10. This was my first big injury and I was pushing and maybe that was my downfall, pushing too hard, too much because I had no experience of it. Then I had a pull-up.

“It was hard for me mentally. I see the social media, we are human and trying to work hard and get on the pitch. I’m not here to be a passenger, I want to be part of it. I’ve worked really hard to be back and am here to stay.”

The Owls are back in action at Nottingham Forest tomorrow and with Borner a doubt and Dominic Iorfa rupturing his Achilles on Saturday, Dunkley could well be needed again. Massimo Luongo is suffering from rushing back from injury and Dunkley was asked if his body would be up to a relentless schedule.

“I have to be physically up for it,” he replied. “It’s not if I want to be ready, I have to be ready.

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“With sports science I always knew I would come back. Maybe if I had been at non-league level, it could have been different.

“But I always knew mentally I would be ready for it. It’s hard to get to the standard I was at, but it’s a building block.”

Manager Tony Pulis revealed: “Chey didn’t even play a practice match on Wednesday but when we found out Borner couldn’t play because of injury he put himself up straight away. We need those sort of characters.

“Massimo’s struggling with his knee. Again, he was probably played earlier than he should have and it’s caught him out a little bit.”

The initial fear is Iorfa will be out for six months.

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On and off the pitch, Dunkley came across as a leader on Saturday, and he says his team-mates have the mentality they need too.

“I try to help people around myself, but I am sometimes speaking to keep my own concentration,” he explained. “I’ve been brought in to be another leader and the more you are speaking, you can be more organised. I’m trying to galvanise the lads.

“We have to take the responsibility, we are the ones out there. We have to fight.

“We’ve definitely got lads who want to fight. The effort has been there, I wouldn’t be questioning that.

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“I’ve been here before (with Wigan) and we have got to roll our sleeves up. All I can do is try to influence those around me.

“I see the fight in the team, I see the effort. It’s tough, we need to be mentally strong. Coming off a third (consecutive) loss, we need to bounce back.

“We need to be eating right, be professional. The boys are fighting. We know what position we are in, but it’s roll your sleeves up time.”

Frieser has been a bit-part player since joining Barnsley in the summer, but his part in a landmark win will have done his popularity in Barnsley no harm at all. It is a different story in his home city.

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“To win (against Sheffield Wednesday) for the first time in 11 years is a really good feeling,” he said.

“I didn’t know (about Barnsley’s derby record) until my neighbour told me on Friday that if I scored in Sheffield I’d get problems, so I hope my house is in good condition! I live in Sheffield and my neighbour is a Wednesday fan.

“I said to him ‘I’ll score’ and now I’ve done it. I get a lot of messages on Instagram from Barnsley fans saying this game is really important, so it’s very good to win it. I look forward to playing in this derby with fans next time.”

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