FERNANDO FORESTIERI is relishing the chance to work under new Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce.
The 29-year-old striker has endured a frustrating 18 months at Hillsborough – featuring in just 24 games since August, 2017 – due to injuries and not being a regular under previous manager Jos Luhukay.
But after two months out with a hamstring injury Forestieri has been restored to the starting line-up and featured in Bruce’s first two games in charge – a 1-0 win at Ipswich Town, and Saturday’s stalemate with Reading.
He showed glimpses of his undoubted quality, playing in his favoured No 10 role, in a frustrating encounter with Reading.
Forestieri admits he is not “100 per cent fit”, but Bruce’s touchline embrace when the striker was substituted after 75 minutes gave a subtle insight into the new incumbent’s man-management skills.
There is a mutual respect between the pair and Forestieri is eager to repay Bruce’s faith in him. “I am disappointed personally because I can do more, both in this game and the last game,” said Forestieri.
“I want to give something back to him (Bruce). He has supported me and I will keep working hard to give something for him, the team and the fans.
“For two months I didn’t play and this is my second game. I don’t feel 100 per cent, so now I need to work hard to help the team. If I play more consistently under this manager there’s the chance to improve how I play.”
Wednesday have fixed a leaking defence; this was their seventh clean sheet in 11 games since Luhukay was axed.
Not even the loss of captain Tom Lees to a training ground injury – youngster Jordan Thornily stepping in – could disrupt their new-found solidity.
But scoring is an issue and a combination of poor finishing and Royals goalkeeper Emi Martinez kept out Wednesday.
George Boyd’s goalbound effort after two minutes was blocked by Martinez and this was a sign of things to come.
Morgan Fox headed into the Kop from Barry Bannan’s far-post corner, and Forestieri picked out Steven Fletcher, but the Scotland striker’s low curled shot was comfortable for Martinez.
The closest Reading went to scoring in the first half was when Keiren Westwood had to palm away Liam Moore’s deflected effort.
Wednesday should have broken the deadlock just before half-time. Quick feet inside the area from Forestieri created space and he picked out Sam Hutchinson, who, from eight yards out, saw his shot blocked on the line by Martinez, who then saved from Forestieri’s follow-up.
Reading enjoyed more of the possession for 20 minutes after the break, Westwood doing well to tip over Lewis Baker’s deflected shot, and blocks from Michael Hector and Hutchinson denied Sone Aluko and John Swift.
Bruce introduced substitutes Rolando Aarons – the winger a January signing from Newcastle United – and Joao as the Owls searched for a winner.
Adam Reach should have capped an impressive shift in midfield with a goal.
Full-back Liam Palmer’s surging run and cross picked out Reach, whose trademark has been stunning long-range strikes this season, but he failed to hit the target from six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
“We are disappointed because we wanted to win,” said Forestieri.
“We need to improve and we need to start taking our chances. We put pressure on and we tried.
“Personally I had chances, and so had Sam Hutchinson and Fletcher, so we need to improve.
“This is the second game we have with Steve Bruce. Now we need to keep going, work hard and improve things.
“If we had scored the first goal maybe it would have finished 4-0. But we didn’t take the chances and we need to keep working.
“Under the new manager it has been very good. In training he wants us to play to win, faster. He says if we train like that you will see it on the pitch, too.
“We are unlucky because he came in February. Maybe if he had come in June it would have been different. But now he is here we need to keep working because he is a very good manager.”
Bruce – who faces back-to-back away games at Millwall tomorrow and Rotherham United on Saturday – has been impressed with his new team, but admits he will need time to rebuild.
“There are a lot of challenges,” he said. “That’s why I have come here. There is one common denominator you need and that’s time. We understand that we don’t get a lot of it these days, but there is lot of work to be done.
“There are players who are out of contract in the summer who are itching for a new deal so it’s an important two or three months.
“I will try to rejuvenate and turn it round. I am under no illusion how difficult it is going to be, but I think the supporters here understand there is a big job on.
“The club has had a tough time for 18 months, so it is up to me to shake it again and get the team going again.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Hector, Thorniley, Fox, Bannan, Hutchinson, Boyd (Aarons 65), Forestieri (Joao 75), Reach, Fletcher (Nuhiu 86). Unused substitutes: Dawson, Pelupessy, Iorfa, Lazaar.
Reading: Martinez, Yiadom, Miazga, Moore, Blackett, Swift, Rinomhota, McCleary (Meite 60), Baker (Harriott 72), Barrow, Aluko (Bodvarsson 79). Unused substitutes: Walker, McShane, Richards, Kelly.
Referee: J Brooks.