GRIFFIN PARK, Brentford’s home for more than a century, is famous for being the only ground in the country to have a pub on each corner.
Following the abject surrender by Sheffield Wednesday when losing 2-0 to the Bees earlier this month, Owls manager Jos Luhukay could have been forgiven for drowning his sorrows in at least a one of those hostelries before heading back north.
Instead Luhukay decided enough was enough. A line had been crossed by a squad that was long on talent but, on the evidence of the opening three Championship fixtures, short on the hunger required to thrive in such an unforgiving competition.
In the post-mortem that followed Luhukay admits the Owls players saw a new side to him as the 55-year-old laid down the law.
Change was on its way, he promised – and change is what was delivered as previously untouchable key men such as Fernando Forestieri and Sam Hutchinson were dropped to the bench with the Wednesday chief turning to youth. Two games and two wins later the outlook at Hillsborough is looking altogether brighter.
“I was not happy with the game at Brentford and I told the players,” said Luhukay ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup second-round tie at home to Premier League Wolverhampton Wanderers. “It was, for me, not acceptable. In football you can lose a game, but the way you lose a game can make you not happy.
It was, for me, not acceptable. In football you can lose a game, but the way you lose a game can make you not happy.Jos Luhukay
“Last Tuesday (on the eve of tackling Millwall) was a very hard analysis. I had a go at the team. Not for me, but for the success of my team. I have to make decisions when my players don’t do 100 per cent what they must do.”
As Forestieri and Hutchinson watched from the sidelines against Millwall last Wednesday in came Matt Penney and Fraser Preston to join fellow academy graduates Cameron Dawson and Jordan Thorniley.
For a club who spent much of Carlos Carvalhal’s reign stockpiling experienced strikers and midfielders at great expense, it represented quite a departure in policy.
Ashley Baker, another of those youngsters to have featured for the Owls this term and someone who is likely to face Wolves tonight, believes such an approach can brings its rewards.
“I don’t see why we can’t achieve what we want as a team with the younger players involved,” said the 21-year-old defender, who could be joined in the starting XI tonight by Preston and Frederik Nielsen. “As you saw last year with Fulham they had youngsters like (Ryan) Sessegnon and got promoted (to the Premier League). Anything can happen.
“When Carlos was here I was on the bench a couple of times, but didn’t feature. But as soon as Jos came in it was clear he didn’t care how old you were or how many games you had played. If you are good enough you get a chance. Simple as that.”
Baker was in the team beaten so comprehensively at Brentford. Asked how angry Luhukay was after that defeat, Baker smiled before adding: “All I will say is he does what he needs to do.”
Luhukay, meanwhile, is wary of asking too much, too soon from Wednesday’s youngsters in terms of workload. He does, however, insist there can be no slipping back into the ways that led to that dreadful defeat at Brentford.
To illustrate this the Owls’ chief has praised the response of Forestieri to being dropped to the bench for the last two games.
“He is one of our best players, but he must also know that he needs the team and the team need him,” said Luhukay. “First he must give something to the team then the team always give him something back.
“Every player in my team, they must do it with each other and not against each other. When they do that I think we have a very strong team. We must always help each other.
“Only then can we be successful. The team must have the same feeling. We must do it together. I was happy in the last 20 minutes (against Millwall and Ipswich) that he (Forestieri) gives the signal that he understands what we mean.”
With the transfer window still open until 5pm on Friday speculation continues to surround possible incomings and outgoings from S6. Forestieri was the latest to be linked with a possible move away, to Leeds United, over the weekend, but Luhukay insists there is nothing new to report on the transfer front.
“When we have something we will directly say,” he added. “I look first at my team and what I see in the last two games gives me confidence. I have not spoken with one player.
“From opening day against Wigan to now I have not spoken with one player. I am very happy. The progression of some of our young players gives me a good feeling. But you never know what will happen in the new few days.”