ON paper, Fulham’s need for points may look more pressing than that of Sheffield Wednesday today – but do not whisper that in Stuart Gray’s direction.
Fulham head north in 21st spot in the table as they seek to avoid the embarrassment of back-to-back relegations and with work still to do to secure their safety.
In the process, their players will be ‘scrapping for their lives,’ according to Gray, but his charges are not short of incentive either.
Realistic chances of a play-off push may have gone, but equalling their highest finish since relegation from the top-flight in 2000 – ninth-place in 2006-07 – is achievable.
Owls players will also be mindful of showcasing their talents to push their cases to be part of the club’s long-term plans under Dejphon Chansiri, who is targeting the Premier League by 2017.
Factor in equalling a club record 17 league clean sheets in a season today and claiming some payback for a 4-0 loss at Craven Cottage in December and there is a fair bit riding on the game for the 11th-placed Owls, who will still be aiming for sixth spot while it is mathematically possible.
After a disappointing 2-1 Roses loss to Blackburn at Hillsborough last time out, Gray said: “In my opinion, I have an honest bunch of lads who give 100 per cent and our challenge is to finish higher than last season and until it’s mathematically impossible, to keep going for that sixth place.
“It’s a challenge for the players. I have players who are out of contract as well and scrapping to get new contracts.”
On Fulham, he added: “It surprises me where they are when you think they just came down from the Premier League last season and the money they have spent on forwards.
“But the most important thing is getting back to winning ways at Hillsborough.”
In a season where the Owls have, for the most part, proved resolute in defence, the four-goal drubbing at Fulham on December 20 represented an uncharacteristic black mark along with the second-half horror show in the Capital One Cup at Manchester City.
By and large, Wednesday have been much better than they showed that winter afternoon in West London as Gray knows full well.
He added: “We want to put on a better performance and get three points.
“They will be fighting and scraping for points, but we let ourselves down at Fulham with the result and the one thing I want on Saturday is the three points, but the performance as well.”