No KCOM return for Steve Bruce but Nigel Adkins still wary of Sheffield Wednesday’s revival

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No KCOM return for Steve Bruce but Nigel Adkins still wary of Sheffield Wednesday’s revival

By the time Steve Bruce formally takes charge of Sheffield Wednesday on February 1, six weeks will have come and gone without a permanent boss at the Hillsborough helm.

The sacking of Jos Luhukay before Christmas called time on an underwhelming reign and placed the Owls in a protracted spell of caretaker limbo.

Former defender Lee Bullen and ex-Hull City assistant Steve Agnew have been left to hold the fort ahead of Bruce’s arrival early next month but Nigel Adkins remains wary of the opponents that will look to end the Tigers’ run of five straight league wins.

Although held to a 0-0 draw at home to League One Luton Town last weekend, Wednesday are yet to lose since Luhukay was shown the door last month.

Back-to-back wins against Preston and Middlesbrough straddled Christmas before points were collected in draws against promotion hopefuls West Brom and Birmingham to end one calendar year and begin another.

Steve Agnew will serve as Sheffield Wednesday boss until Steve Bruce takes charge on February 1
Steve Agnew will serve as Sheffield Wednesday boss until Steve Bruce takes charge on February 1

City still have the upper hand in the form guide after taking 19 points from their last seven games but any notion of Wednesday being a soft touch until Bruce’s arrival has been dispelled by Adkins.

“Their players have turned it around and their players will be wanting to impress,” said City’s head coach. “It’ll be a tough game. The players know they’ve got to be fully committed.

“They’ve got good players and their confidence will rise on the back of their results.

“There’ll be an understanding of a new manager coming in and normally players up their game a bit more because they want to be involved in the set-up.”

When news of Wednesday’s interest in recruiting Bruce surfaced over Christmas, another reunion at the KCOM Stadium appeared to be on the cards for today.

Instead Bruce has opted against taking charge until February 1, leaving duties to Agnew and Stephen Clemence, his trusted aides during a four-year reign at the KCOM Stadium.

Sheffield Wednesday's Thai owner Dejphon Chansiri
Sheffield Wednesday’s Thai owner Dejphon Chansiri

“Steve is in a position in his life and his career where he holds more cards and can decide,” said Adkins.

“People have commitments before they take jobs but I’m sure he speaks regularly with Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence. They’ll know exactly what they want and what’s required.

“We’ll do our prep. We know how we want to go and play and we’ll look at the strengths and weaknesses of our opposition.”

These two clubs drew 1-1 when meeting on the season’s second weekend at Hillsborough but the change of management has paved the way for a number of frozen out players to come back for the return fixture.

George Boyd, who helped City to promotion in 2012-13, had featured in only one league game before getting ushered back into the side for Christmas, while goalkeeper Kieran Westwood and midfielder Sam Hutchinson have made similar returns to prominence.

Markus Henriksen of Hull City turns away from Joey Pelupessy of Sheffield Wednesday
Markus Henriksen of Hull City turns away from Joey Pelupessy of Sheffield Wednesday

The added experience has helped to pick up a 1-0 win away to Middlesbrough and a 1-1 draw at West Brom in the last two away games, all but banishing the fears of relegation that had spread during the final weeks of Luhukay’s tenure.

“They’ve got some very good players there, especially when you look at the finances they’ve spent on a strike force. They’ve got loads of strikers,” said Adkins.

“Westwood in goal hadn’t been playing and now he’s back in the team. Some of the experienced players are back involved now.

“It’s not for us to understand what’s going on at another football club but the fact of the matter is that they’re in good form and we’re under no illusions how challenging it’ll be.

“We’re in a good form which should see us playing with confidence but you’ve got to know your opposition. We’ll be prepared.”

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