Sheffield Wednesday: Onus is on starters to fight for shirts says Stuart Gray

Sam Hutchinson returned to the Owls squad on Saturday for the first time since October
Sam Hutchinson returned to the Owls squad on Saturday for the first time since October

Stuart Gray has turned up the heat on the Owls’ current starters as his squad continues to grow stronger.

The loan signing of Lewis Baker – with more likely to follow – plus the returns of Sam Hutchinson and Joe Mattock bolstered the Wednesday bench at Nottingham Forest last weekend.

And Gray says the onus is on the players already holding a starting shirt to justify their continued selection.

“The players who’ve got the shirt have got to keep it as there are people waiting to grasp it,” Gray said:

“I’ve got Joe Mattock and Sam Hutchinson back and champing at the bit.

“I’ve got a fantastic individual player in Lewis Baker who was only on the bench last weekend.

“And Jeremy Helan is back available.

“We’re getting stronger.”

Hutchinson’s return to the Owls squad for the first time in almost three months came as somewhat of a surprise.

Though Hutchinson was unused on Saturday, Gray felt the versatile midfielder’s presence in the squad was valuable.

Hutchinson took part in just two full training sessions prior to Saturday’s game.

He also explained Helan’s absence from the starting XI was down to personal reasons and praised the contribution off the bench of the Frenchman along with fellow subs Baker and Caolan Lavery.

Gray said: “I felt with Sam’s enthusiasm in and around the place would just give everyone a lift.

“Jeremy was away in France for personal reasons and didn’t get back until Friday lunchtime.

“It’s a team game. You want the subs that come on to make an impact and all of them did.”

Competition is set to grow for the Owls as Giles Coke steps up his recovery from an achilles problem.

Coke has been out for more than two months but is edging closer to a return to the squad.

Gray meanwhile continues to hunt for new additions during the January window.

He said: “We need to strengthen.

“Competition is unbelieveably healthy and can only benefit the football club.”

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