Sheffield Wednesday: Howe I’d like to get one over my old pal Eddie

Eddie Howe
Eddie Howe

Two old friends will, for 90 minutes, become enemies at the Goldsands Stadium tomorrow.

Owls head coach Stuart Gray is a big admirer of Eddie Howe, having worked closely under the highly-regarded Bournemouth boss at Burnley.

Howe has done a sterling job in guiding the Cherries to the top of the table with three matches remaining. He, and the team, have received many plaudits for the stylish, passing brand of football they have played in their quest to win the title.

But Gray has told The Star that there will be no room for sentiment when the two teams collide at 3pm on Saturday.

“I worked with Eddie [Howe] for 12 months when he came in and took over the Burnley job; I have a lot of time for him,” he said. “I learned a lot from Eddie and he will probably say he learned a lot from me.

“He’s very articulate and hands on on the training ground. He puts a lot of hours in. He’s a student of the game.

“He’s very placid, calm and collective individual. He’s a very good coach who puts on good sessions and manager. What he has done with Bournemouth is fantastic.

“We want to give Bournemouth a good game. We have three good games left and I want nine points. Two of them are away from home against very good sides. We want to get as high up the league as possible.”

Victory over Reading in midweek thanks to Callum Wilson’s early goal guaranteed the Cherries at least a place in the Championship play-offs.

In the process, Howe’s class of 2015 also surpassed the highest tally of away league goals scored in a season in the second-tier of English football, beating the 46 set by Wednesday in 1951-52 and Chelsea in 1988-89, and sealed a club-record 12th away success.

Gray said: “They [Bournemouth] have a tight knit group and, more or less, picked the same team on a regular basis. Eddie hasn’t changed the team very much but he’s strengthened it very well.

“Eddie will be preparing his team knowing that we are very difficult to beat and break down.

“We have to turn up, win our one v one battles and try and get the first goal.”

As they prepare for the final run-in, Cherries chairman Jeff Mostyn says nerves are starting to creep in as they look to seal a place in the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.

“We’re on a high, understandably,” he said. “There is an amazing amount of euphoria but at the same time there is a huge nervousness around.

“There is everything to play for.

“We’ve done so well this season and the big prize is within touching distance - I think that’s why everyone is so nervous.”

For the second year in a row, Wednesday head to Bournemouth looking to derail their promotion dream. A year ago, the Owls all but ended the Cherries hopes of securing a play-off spot by clinching a surprise 4-2 victory, despite having Sam Hutchinson sent off in the second half.

“It was a strange game,” recalled Gray. “It was a hot day and I am expecting it to be around 25 to 30 degrees this time around. We ended up winning 4-2.

“It was a great result but they are a different side this year.

“Eddie will be reminding his players what we did there last season and won’t want a repeat of that.”

Gray, who turns 55 on Sunday, remains convinced the Championship promotion race will go down to the final day of the campaign. Wednesday can have a big say in who goes up, with clashes looming on the horizon against leaders Bournemouth and third-placed Watford.

Gray could welcome Sam Hutchinson back into his midfield as long as the former Chelsea player shakes off a virus. Lewis McGugan (virus) is also a minor doubt.

There are no other fresh injury worries for Gray to contend with as the Owls chase back-to-back league wins. The match comes too soon for Jose Semedo (foot) and Claude Dielna (groin) but the pair may come into Gray’s thoughts for next week’s Yorkshire derby with Leeds United.

Will Keane is currently receiving treatment at his parent club Manchester United on an ankle problem which has ruled him out of the last six matches. The striker is expected to return to Hillsborough on Monday.

“His attitude and application have been fantastic,” commented Gray. “We were seeing the best of Will and unfortunately he got injured. He is a quality player at a big club.”

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