Sheffield Wednesday v Bolton: Loovens relaxed over Owls future with play-off spots in sight

Victory salute from skipper Glenn Loovens
Victory salute from skipper Glenn Loovens
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Stuart Gray is hoping Sheffield Wednesday will reward the players who have taken the Owls to within four points of the play-off places with new Hillsborough deals.

Several, such as captain Glenn Loovens, will be out of contract in the summer and could walk away for nothing.

But Gray is keen for new contracts to be thrashed out, as Wednesday host Bolton Wanderers today within a couple of wins of the play-off spots.

Takeover talks – the club’s owner Milan Mandaric is in discussions over a £30m buyout with a Thai consortium – mean players’ contracts have not been top priority at Hillsborough.

But Gray said: “I think the players have got every right to know what the future holds.

“At the moment, we have quite a number of players coming to the end of their contracts.

“I would like to get players tied down. It’s less hard work for me in the summer.

“I believe in the players and have every confidence in them, and I think certain players deserve that reward, too, for what they have achieved.

“But you have the takeover that’s going to be happening, and what direction they will want to go in.

“The players have to concentrate on playing, playing well, and do their job for the team, which they are.”

Dutch defender Loovens has been a big success at Hillsborough since joining in December 2013, but is only on a 12-month contract which expires in July.

The former Celtic and Cardiff City centre-half is hoping his performances in the heart of the Owls’ back line – they have the second best defensive record in the Championship behind Middlesbrough – will earn him an extended stay in South Yorkshire.

“Every club I have been at, I have been there for a long time,” said the 31-year-old.

“My contract is up in the summer and hopefully we will sit down soon and I can be part of what happens here.

“I am quite relaxed about everything. They know what I am capable of and know the club inside out so I am relaxed.

“I’m sure there will be something.”

The Owls face back-to-back home games, starting today with the visit of Bolton.

The Lancashire side have been transformed under new manager Neil Lennon, and Loovens is all too aware of his former Celtic manager’s ability.

“They have picked up a lot of points lately and I know the manager well,” said Loovens.

“I know him from Celtic. I know what he is like and he will have them fired up like he does for every game.

“He won’t let people have time to slack. He will be right on their toes.”

Since crashing to a 4-0 defeat at Fulham in December, Wednesday have won three successive Championship games.

Their current position is the closest the Owls have been to a possible return to the Premier League since their relegation 15 years ago.

It is obvious promotion issues will not be decided in the next 10 days when the Owls host both Bolton and Birmingham City.

But six points from those games, which would require an upturn in Hillsborough fortunes which have seen them win just three league games at home all season, would go a long way to cementing a top-10 spot.

Loovens said: “Every game is a big one.

“We are on a good run. We need to take it game by game and not look too far ahead. We have to focus on Bolton and make sure we stay in the mix.

“We are so close to them and need to keep getting three points to get amongst the play-off spots.

“If we continue the way we have been playing lately, hopefully we will be there in the end. We always knew we had a good dressing room but this league is unpredictable.

“We started the season well and we then had a spell of 11 games without a win.

“We are nearly in the top six and we are over halfway through the season so we’ve got an idea of where we might end up. It’s time for us to have a go at it.”

Gray added: “The pleasing thing is the run we are on.

“Our home form has not been good enough, but we have got back-to-back home games and we’d like to put six points on the board.

“There’s 46 games to play and nothing will be given out after the next two games. Ideally, we’d like six points and push up the league.

“We just want to take the good away performances into our home form.

“We beat Blackpool at home, which seems a long time ago, so it’s nice to be back at Hillsborough.

“It was a good time to play Nottingham Forest (when the Owls won 2-0 last weekend). Is it a good time to play Bolton? I think it is, because we are in good spirits and don’t fear anybody at the moment.”