Alan Irvine will take to the Wednesday dugout for the first time this Saturday when the Owls make the short trip to Oakwell to take on South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley.
The new gaffer will be looking to end a run of 12 games without a win for Wednesday, in the Owls’ first league game of 2010.
But it’ll be no easy feat, with Mark Robins rejuvinating a Barnsley side that looked destined for a relegation battle before the former Wednesday striker arrived at the club.
Wednesday have won just once at Oakwell in 20 years, and with the Tykes keen to bounce back from successive defeats in 2010, it’s all set for a fiery South Yorkshire derby.
Alan Irvine told the Sheffield Star:
‘I hope people don’t think that we’re just going to shut up shop and go for a 0-0 draw.
‘I understand the culture of this club, and it’s important to play to the culture of the club.
‘I know that Sheffield Wednesday fans will not be happy if all we do is defend.
‘But before you do anything you need to get the ball; you need a structure about your team to get the ball back effectively. Then you go from there.’
Barnsley boss Mark Robins told the official Barnsley website:
‘Sheffield Wednesday are a good team with some excellent individual players who have experience of derby matches. I am sure it will be played like a cup tie with a very high tempo and any neutral here on Saturday will be impressed with what they see.
‘It will be a real blood and thunder game and it is my first derby encounter with Sheffield Wednesday. It is one we are looking forward to and we have to make sure that we go out there and replicate our supporters’ desire to win this fixture. I am sure the atmosphere in Oakwell will be electric.’
Wednesday Team News:
Bobby Hassell and Hugo Colace are the only doubts for Mark Robins going into the clash.
The duo will be given until the last minute to prove their fitness, but Robins is expecting both to get the green light to feature in his squad.
Nathan Doyle could also be given his first start since making his move to Oakwell a permanent one.
Robins has no other fresh injury concerns going into the match, although he could look to ring the changes following two successive defeats that have seen Barnsley lose their opening two matches of 2010.
Player to watch: Daniel Bogdanovic
The Maltese striker is rumoured to be catching the attention of scouts in Germany’s Bundesliga this week, and he’ll no doubt be a real threat to the Owls defence. He’s scored five goals in 16 outings this season, but has only really come out shining after Robins’ appointment at Oakwell.
Barnsley Team News:
New Owls boss Alan Irvine is keeping tight-lipped over his line-up for the short trip up the M1.
Irvine is expected to ring the changes to an Owls side that have failed to win in their last 12 matches.
But the former Everton coach has already revealed his desire of Francis Jeffers, who has so far failed to make his mark at S6 – or at least for the right reasons.
The former Arsenal and Everton man could well be given a start on Saturday, with Marcus Tudgay his excpected partner.
But with Irvine keen to improve Wednesday’s leaking defence, he could opt for a defensive approach at Oakwell, with just one man in attack, and Tudgay and Johnson playing off him out wide.
The return of Akpo Sodje from his loan stint at Charlton Athletic has also bolstered the Owls’ attacking options ahead of the game.
Irvine will have no fresh injury concerns from the side that lost to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup a fortnight ago, and Michael Gray remains a doubt despite his return to training.
Player to watch: Francis Jeffers
It’s been a while since Franny has been our ‘one to watch’, but with Irvine, his former coach at Everton, heaping praise on the striker this week, it could give him the inspiration required to finally kick-start his career with the Owls.
Match Facts & Stats
Barnsley wins: 21
Wednesday wins: 30
Last Time Out:
Wednesday 2-2 Barnsley
Wednesday looked to be getting the new season off to a flying start as first half goals from Jermaine Johnson and Michael Gray gave them a half-time lead in front of over 30,000 inside S6 on the opening day of the campaign.
But Barnsley hit back to bag a share of the spoils in the second half thanks to goals from Danny Butterfield and Jon Macken.
v Blackpool (A) – 19/01/10
v Peterborough United (H) – 23/01/10