Sheffield Wednesday’s Gray recalls getting better of Schmeichel

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Stuart Gray remembers scoring to help knock out Manchester United but that is the high point of the Sheffield Wednesday chief’s FA Cup exploits, writes Richard Hercock.

For the Owls head coach has never played or managed a team in an FA Cup quarter-final or beyond in a career which started in 1980 at Nottingham Forest.

When you consider those early days under Brian Clough, plus stints with Aston Villa and Southampton, it is an amazing statistic.

It is one Gray hopes to remedy today when the prize for an Owls win over Charlton Athletic would be a place in the last eight of the FA Cup.

“I have been to finals before, but only as a paying punter,” said Gray.

“I have never got to an FA Cup quarter-final. I was brought up as a boy watching the FA Cup final, on a Saturday watching the build-up, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere.

“Hopefully, the players can get a bit further than I did in my playing career.

“I have some decent memories of playing in ties, but never a quarter-final.

“If I can think that far back, the pleasing thing was scoring against Peter Schmeichel at Manchester United. I then got to work with Peter at Aston Villa and just kept reminding him about when I put one past him.”

That goal came in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford – Saints won on penalties – in 1992.

If Wednesday are to progress in this year’s FA Cup, they will need striker Atdhe Nuhiu to improve his own scoring ratio.

The giant Austrian striker has netted just three times all season and Gray yesterday brought in loan striker Leon Best to increase competition amongst his forwards.

Gray praised Nuhiu’s work-rate in Wednesday’s recent run, which was 11 games unbeaten before Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Wigan.

At 0-0, Nuhiu was one-on-one with Ali Al Habsi but shot tamely at the visiting goalkeeper and it was a miss the Owls would be later punished for.

“I can’t fault his application or determination, but the only thing people will judge him on are his goals,” said Gray. “Atdhe is as disappointed as anyone else. He was devastated the other night that he didn’t convert his chance.

“But his work-rate for the team, his closing down, has been fantastic.

“We had been 11 games unbeaten and Atdhe had played a big part in that.

“All forwards live on goals and he is disappointed with his goals return. But, if you fail, you fail on ability rather than lack of application. It wasn’t our night but Atdhe has to keep plugging away, keep getting in the scoring positions and we have to keep creating chances. He has a part to play.”