Sheffield Wednesday’S players are fighting for their futures at Hillsborough under new owner Dejphon Chansiri.
This is the view of Owls defender Tom Lees after the Thai business tycoon bought the Championship club from Milan Mandaric in a £30m deal.
Four weeks ago, Wednesday had won at Nottingham Forest and were just six points off the play-off places.
With Chansiri desperate to return Wednesday to the Premier League, optimism was high the Owls could gatecrash the promotion party and even go up this season.
Chansiri sanctioned six new signings in the January transfer window to bolster head coach Stuart Gray’s squad.
But since Forest, Wednesday have endured a five-game winless streak – picking up just two points from a possible 15 – to leave them 11th in the table. They are closer to the relegation scrap (nine points) than play-off contention (13 points).
Gray met Chansiri on Thursday for the first time to discuss the club’s future plans.
While the head coach’s position has not been helped by the winless run, stand-in captain Lees also believes the players must start to impress new owner Chansiri.
Wednesday will have 14 players out of contract this summer, so it promises to be a major shake-up of the squad whatever division they find themsleves in.
“With the takeover, there could be a lot of change (in the summer),” said Lees, a summer signing from Leeds United.
“I know there are a lot of people with contracts up.
“When you are in a takeover position, it might not matter whether you have a contract or not. It could be all change.
“Even if you have got a couple of years left (on your contract) you need to be thinking ‘I need to show what I can do until the end of the season, so I am here playing next season’.
“We have all got to try and show we are good enough to be in the team if additions are made next summer.
“Everyone has to focus on their individual jobs, pull their weight, and turn this around. That’s the only choice we have got.”
Owls coach Gray also believes the players are playing for their Hillsborough futures, with just 16 games remaining in the Championship.
“We have players out of contracts so that’s the biggest reminder for players,” insisted Gray.
“With the new owners coming in, they have got ambitions and want to push the club forward and I want to do that both on and off the pitch.
“Talking about that is cheap. You have got to go out and produce.”
Today’s visit of struggling Brighton offers Wednesday the chance to build on a poor home record, which has seen the Owls win just three times at home in the Championship.
Lees looks set to continue as captain – suspended leader Glenn Loovens was due to return today but has picked up an ankle injury – but the Elland Road academy product insists recent results have taken the gloss off leading the side.
“It’s been fantastic being captain, it’s a big thing to be given that responsibility,” said the 24-year-old.
“I am grateful, but we could have done a little bit better in the last two games. I would rather have two wins. It’s been good being captain, but I haven’t been able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked to.”
Despite being 13 points behind sixth-placed Brentford, Lees insists the play-offs are not out of Wednesday’s reach.
He believes finishing outside the top 10 in the Championship would mean the Owls have “under-achieved” this season.
“We have been poor the last few games, which is a shame when we got ourselves into a good position coming out of the Christmas period,” he said.
“We have let ourselves down a little, but it’s up to us to turn it around and not let the season go to waste.
“It’s very tight still. First of all we have got to get our performances back on track, because we can’t say we have been playing well enough to justify results. It’s down to us individually to take responsibility.
“We have two choices. We can either let the season waste away, get dragged into something at the bottom of the table, or we can turn it around.
“We don’t want to get to the last 10 games and have nothing to play for.
“We would have under-achieved after that start we gave ourselves.
“It’s got to be our aim to get that last play-off spot, or as close to it as we can.
“I think you have got to have something to aim for. You don’t want to have that feeling where you are playing just for the sake of it.
“I think a lot of people wouldn’t have expected us to finish in the top half at the beginning of the season.
“Us as players, we probably thought we could achieve more.
“If we didn’t finish in the top half, top 10, I think the players would be disappointed in ourselves.”
Gray is not ready either to settle for a mid-table finish this season.
“I wouldn’t accept that,” said the 54-year-old Yorkshireman.
“I always set my standards quite high. My glass is always half full not half empty.
“The Championship is wide open.
“There are just Derby, Bournemouth and Watford who are getting consistent results.
“We need to go on a run. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“We have enough points to go for the play-offs and players are playing for their livelihoods so that’s a big incentive,” he added.