Owls' wage bill slashed by £2.6m

CHRIS TURNER had warned of a mass clear-out at Hillsborough – and the Sheffield Wednesday manager has stuck to his word.

Wielding the axe with no room for sentiment, Turner ditched 13 players and immediately slashed around 2.6m from the club's existing 3.8m wage bill.

Goalkeeper Kevin Pressman, Republic of Ireland international Alan Quinn, defender Leigh Bromby and former Manchester United striker Mark Robins were among the higher-profile casualties.

Turner knew that it was vital to shake up his squad after narrowly avoiding relegation to the Third Division.

His own future will be on the line if the Owls, who are 25m in debt, fail to make a good start to next season – although critics say he should be sacked in the close season.

Chairman Dave Allen is embroiled in a battle for control with former Chelsea chairman Ken Bates that will rumble on through the summer.

The row has split supporters down the middle and gates could drop below 20,000 unless the club's summer rebuilding offers hope of a brighter future.

Turner has signed Republic of Ireland Under-21 international midfield player Glenn Whelan on a two-year contract from Manchester City, having wrapped up deals for Middlesbrough winger Chris Brunt and Newcastle defender Chris Carr towards the end of the season just ended.

He is also set to sign former Huddersfield and Southampton midfield player Chris Marsden next week and appoint the the 34-year-old as new club captain.

Preston goalkeeper David Lucas, Chesterfield striker Glynn Hurst and Stockport County's Luke Beckett remain targets.

With a 2m wage budget set for next season, yesterday's exodus means there is around 1m to spend on wages this summer.

Taking the average Second Division wage as around 100,000 a year, eight new players are likely to arrive at the club.

Youngsters Jon Shaw and Lewis McMahon, who both impressed in the final part of the season, are the only out-of-contract players to be offered new deals at this stage.

Wingers Matthew Hamshaw and Richard Evans, who missed the majority of last season with knee ligament damage, will be offered new deals once they prove their fitness.

Turner said: "It was important for us to have a change of personnel at the club. I will be bringing in new players over the summer who have the strength, competitiveness and discipline to succeed in Division Two.

"There were a lot of tough decisions for me to make," he added. "I could have sat on the fence with a few players but I felt we needed a change."

The release of defender Derek Geary, a crowd favourite, was a calculated gamble. It may not win instant approval from the supporters but the player's disciplinary record was an issue.

"Some of the decisions will be unpopular," Turner confessed. "But I am doing what is required to get us out of this division next season – and some of these players have been involved in a losing side for a number of years."

Goalkeeper Pressman, the club's longest serving player, has been awarded a testimonial following his release.

Turner said: "Kevin has been granted a testimonial match which he thoroughly deserves after his outstanding service to the club. It will be a fine way in which to round off his Sheffield Wednesday career and I am sure a lot of fans will turn up to support him."

Goalkeeper Chris Stringer followed up his release by announcing his retirement from professional football at the age of 20.

Since bursting on to the scene as a teenager, Stringer has struggled with injuries and has missed the majority of the last two seasons. Doctors advised that he quit because of blood clots following operations on both his calf muscles.

"If it was up to me I would carry on playing," said Stringer. "It is hard to take but my health is more important and I have to get on with my life."

Veteran striker Robins, who joined the club on a short-term deal from Rotherham United in December, has been invited to train with the Owls in pre-season if he does not find another club.

The Owls have only 10 players under contract for the coming season and defender Craig Armstrong is on the transfer list.

ian.appleyard@ypn.co.uk