Bright start for Sheff Wed after Bruce defection - Interview
Friday, 30th Aug 2019 08:20 by Clive Whittingham
Sheff Wed regular Jon Hore has been reasonably impressed with the start the Owls have made to the season under caretaker manager Lee Bullen, following the late summer defection of Steve Bruce to Newcastle.
How do you assess last season overall?
A real season of two halves – a miserable first half of the season with dire football and poor results ending in Jos Luhukays’ sacking, followed by a much more enjoyable second half under Steve Bruce with only three defeats in the last 23 and an outside shot at the playoffs ending in a comfortable mid-table finish. Expectations weren’t high at the start of the season and we finished right about where I’d predicted. After the strong finish there was a real sense of optimism heading into this season but the Steve Bruce saga was a real kick in the bollocks just three weeks out from the start of the season.
The summer was dominated by the Steve Bruce thing, but Lee Bullen seems to have hit the ground running, how has that situation affected things and is he going to get it permanently?
Bullen has done a good job so far but it’s getting to the point where a decision needs to be made so he and the players have clarity going forward. The international break coming after the Rangers game looks like a good time to make a decision one way or the other. I think in an ideal world we’d be looking to appoint someone with more managerial experience, but there’s a real dearth of quality candidates available at the moment and this could be influencing Chansiri’s thinking. With Hughton having ruled himself out you’re probably looking at either Rowett, which is not particularly inspiring, or taking a punt on the Cowley brothers which could be great or could end up with another Paul Hurst/Ipswich scenario, although I think we have a much better squad than they did. I have to put in a good word for Bullen who’s picked up the pieces after the Carvalhal and Luhukay sackings and the Bruce saga, and provided continuity and a positive influence behind the scenes. He’s a great guy that knows the club and the players inside out. If he didn’t get it permanently there’s every chance he might look to cut his teeth in the lower leagues, and while it would be a massive shame to lose him he deserves that opportunity.
How was the summer transfer window activity?
For the first time in years we had a really good window. Got rid of loads of deadwood and wages on frees, sold a player for actual money for a player (£5m+ for Lucas Joao), and strengthened the squad in key areas on a very tight budget. The realities of P&S have finally hit home and we seem to have learned from past mistakes. While Joao is different from any striker we have, it was just an offer we couldn’t turn down given the current financial situation. Moses Odubajo, Kadeem Harris and Julian Borner have come in on free transfers, and Harris in particular has been outstanding in the first few weeks of the season, giving us pace out wide we’ve need for years and adding a new dimension to our game. Teams can’t just press high against us now we have a genuine threat in behind the full backs. Borner is a left-footed centre half signed from Bundesliga 2 and has slotted in very nicely alongside Tom Lees in defence. He looks a great acquisition. Jacob Murphy has also come in on loan from Newcastle to give us another pacy option out wide. The squad looks strong and we’ve got genuine competition for places.
Ins: Mass Luongo, CM, 26, QPR, £1.1m >>> Kadeem Harris, RM, 26, Cardiff, Free >>> Moses Odubajo, RB, 25, Brentford, Free >>> Julian Borner, CB, 28, Bielefeld, Free >>> Paul Jones GK, 33, Fleetwood, Free >>> David Bates, CB, 22, Hamburg, Loan >>> Jacob Murphy, RW, 24, Newcastle, Loan
Outs: Lucas Joao, CF, 25, Reading, £5.5m >>> Daniel Pudil, LB, 33, Boleslav (Czech), Free >>> George Boyd, runs like fuck, 33, Peterborough, Free >>> David Jones, CM, 34, Released >>> Connor O’Grady, CB, 21, Released >>> Marco Matias, RW, 30, Released >>> Frederick Nielsen, CB, 21, Released >>> Almen Abdi, CM, 32, Released >>> Gary Hooper, CF, 31, Released >>> Connor Kirby, CM, 20, Macclesfield, Loan >>> Joost Van Aken, CB, 25, Osnabruck (Germany), Loan Matt Penney, LB, 21, St Pauli, Loan >>> Jack Stobbs CF, 22, Livingston, Loan
How's Luongo getting on?
He’s only played off the bench so far but I’ve been really impressed with the brief glimpses I’ve seen. Looks a very tidy player with a great engine. He’ll definitely get a start tonight against Rotherham in the cup and wouldn’t be surprised if he starts at the weekend as well. For rumoured fee of £1 million it looks like a very good bit of business.
Assess your start to the season...
Given the timing of Bruce’s departure, and with no permanent manager in place, I think we’ve got to be happy with three wins from five. On paper the fixtures have been quite kind, but we’ve beaten both Reading and Luton who look like they might actually turn out to be decent. We never ever win at Preston so the only real disappointment so far was losing to 10-man Millwall. We’ve had two wins and two clean sheets at home so far, and if we can get a win against you lot on Saturday and I’ll be delighted with the return from the first six. Bullen has implemented a 4-3-3 system and packed the midfield, looking to utilise the pace of Harris and Murphy out wide. While this has looked solid defensively (bar Odubajo’s two penalty horror show against Preston), I still don’t think we’ve got the balance right in that midfield three. Stephen Fletcher is often very isolated, whether it’s from balls up to him or crosses into the box, and we’re already looking a little bit over-reliant on Harris to create something. We don’t have a genuine ‘number 10’ so if we carry on playing three in the middle I’d like to see us play both Luongo and Kieran Lee to give us two proper box-to-box runners to get up alongside Fletch.
League So Far, 7th >>> Reading 1-3 Sheff Wed (Meite 54 – Harris 30, Hutchinson 56, Joao 90+7) >>> Sheff Wed 2-0 Barnsley, (Murphy 2, Fletcher 60) >>> Millwall 1-0 Sheff Wed, (Smith 37, Wallace s/o 43) >>> Sheff Wed 1-0 Luton (Harris 54) >>> Preston 2-1 Sheff Wed, (Johnson pen 32, pen 65 – Fletcher 78)
Stand out players and weak links in the side?
As mentioned, Kadeem Harris has been brilliant so far, a joy to watch and the sort of quick, powerful player we’ve not had at Hillsborough since Michael Antonio. Strange decision from Warnock to get rid of him on a free. Lees and Borner have looked very solid as a centre back partnership and it’s great to have Kieran Lee buzzing around in the middle of the park again. Our weakest area is the full backs, another long-lasting issue, although Liam Palmer has made massive improvements to his game in the last 12 months. Odubajo had an absolute stinker against Preston and I’m still not 100% convinced about Dominic Iorfa.
Can the start be sustained?
I don’t see why not. After a good summer of recruitment I think we’ve got the squad depth to sustain a playoff challenge. We’ll need to tweak the system a bit and find a way of playing that doesn’t involved everything going through Harris because teams are already cottoning onto this and doubling up on him. But there’s definitely quality and options in the squad, so whether it’s Bullen or someone else in charge, the tools are there. And let’s be honest, apart from maybe Leeds, no one is really that good are they?
The Twitter @loftforwords, @j_ho9
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