Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City: Grounded Hunt keen for Owls to lie in wait before making move

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JACK HUNT is not exactly from political stock, but given his pragmatic responses regarding Sheffield Wednesday’s season so far, he could well have delivered them from the Westminster dispatch box and not the Owls’ Middlewood training ground.

For those who believe that the club have planted their blue and white flag firmly back on the Championship map coming up to the division’s halfway point, he has a message. ‘We have not achieved anything yet – let’s see where we are in May.’

Sheffield Wednesday's Jack Hunt (Picture: Steve Ellis).

Sheffield Wednesday's Jack Hunt (Picture: Steve Ellis).

Equally he believes that for the division’s current top five of Middlesbrough, Derby, Brighton, Hull City and Burnley, their lofty position is theirs to lose.

But he is not discounting an interloper breaking that harmony.

Many are tipping that to be Wednesday, whose festive schedule against Birmingham, Middlesbrough and Fulham smacks of opportunity.

What Hunt is emphatic about is that the Owls would have gladly taken their current seventh place back in the summer. But business remains ongoing and unfinished if a reinvigorating season is to turn into a memorable one.

Hunt said: “Being one point off the play-offs going into Boxing Day – I think if you had asked most people involved with Sheffield Wednesday if they’d be happy with that, I think everyone would be.

“It’s two (league) defeats in 14 or 15 and that is something to be proud of and shows what we’ve got in the dressing room.

“It’s not just a team who have a few smart players who are at it now and again and can turn teams over. There is a real fight and grit with experienced people helping out and a few younger lads. But I wouldn’t really say we have achieved anything yet even though we are in a position that everyone seems quite happy with and we are within touching distance of the play-offs. We have not achieved anything yet.

“We will see come the end of the season where we are and if we have achieved or underachieved.

“We have been on a good run, but would like a few more wins. I’d happily knock off a few more draws if we could turn them into wins.

“There are three games in a week and if you can get two or three wins there, you are bound to climb the table. I always think that if you have three games in a week, if you pick up two wins and a draw, you are definitely moving up the table and that could make a real statement to the teams in and around us.”

He added: “For me, there are five really good teams in the league and a lot of people would argue there’s only one play-off place (open) perhaps. To be within touching distance of that going into Boxing Day and such a hectic fixture list ahead is good and the dressing room is ready to see what we can do in the next couple of games.

“Personally, I think there are five teams up there who are very strong and it’s kind of up to them if they are to drop out.

“But anyone can put a good run of games together and if you can do that, you can easily break into that top five.”

Another three points for the Owls today to extend their unbeaten league home sequence to nine matches at the expense of a play-off rival in Birmingham in front of a big Hillsborough crowd, clearly has plenty of fringe benefits.

The Owls then back up quickly at Boro on Bank Holiday Monday – a gruelling assignment with just a day’s full preparation – before a capital date with Fulham next weekend.

Plenty will be learned about just how strong Carlos Carvalhal’s squad resources are by 5pm on January 2.

The smart money is certainly on rotation, for those that can without greatly diminishing their quality levels, with the likes of Derby, Boro, Hull and the Owls falling in that bracket.

That said, for those players who do play two games in the space of 72 hours, it will be wholly exacting on the body, with Hunt admitting he has learned to dread the short turn-around in Christmas fixtures.

He said: “I enjoy Boxing Day games. But for me as a player, the worst time is after you have played a game with the second day recovery.

“Your bodies is in bits and you have to play on the 28th and that’s when you feel at your worst. I don’t enjoy the quick turnaround there. Three days would be fine, but two is very tough to take on the body.

“But to be fair to the manager, he has brought in that rotation policy and everyone is really supporting each other in training and when we play because everyone is going to get a game.”

While Carvalhal is likely to rotate where possible – having implicitly spoken of his belief that players who line-up for successive matches in a short time-span with less than three days of recovery time run the risk of entering the red-zone and picking up injuries – not too many Wednesdayites would welcome Fernando Forestieri being ‘rested’.

The £3m man underlined his value to the Owls – not that too many really needed reminding of it – with a two-goal haul in last weekend’s win over Wolves, with Hunt being an unabashed fan of the 25-year-old who he feels is worthy of the moniker of “special player”.

On the talismanic attacking qualities of Forestieri, who has hit three goals in his past two matches, the former Huddersfield Town full-back added: “He’s brilliant and can do things other people can’t.

“Sometimes he does frustrate you, but you take that all day for what he does and brings to the team.

“He works so hard and the things he tried are things that only special players like him can pull off. If it doesn’t come off, as long as he is working hard, no-one will ever say anything.

“In training, he’s the exact same and drifts into pockets. He finds gaps that not many other players will find and he is tough to mark and very strong for his size.”