Dagenham and Redbridge visit Hillsborough on August 7 and Sheffield Wednesday manager Alan Irvine certainly has plenty of options available to him as he looks to start the season with a home win.
Wednesday have recruited eight new players during the summer, following a clear-out after their relegation to League One, - and that figure could become nine before Saturday as goalkeeper Nicky Weaver has been training with the club.
Pre-season form and results have been indifferent with the focus firmly on building up fitness and the vast majority of the clubs’ 23-man first team squad have been given run outs in the friendly matches. The manner in which Irvine has continually changed his line-ups dramatically from game to game during the summer means that it has been hard to assess who could be in line for a place in the starting 11 when the season starts for real.
In goal, should Weaver sign he is likely to be the favourite for the number one jersey due to his experience. Of the two inexperienced youngsters also in contention Richard O’Donnell is thought to be the more advanced but Arron Jameson has been arguably more impressive in pre-season.
New signing Jon Otsemobor could fill the right back role ahead of Lewis Buxton and on the left Tommy Spurr, a regular in recent seasons, may find his position under threat from former Wolves man Daniel Jones.
Captain Darren Purse put in an impressive display in the final warm up match at Doncaster. He is almost a certainty to be in the side and is likely to be partnered by Mark Beevers though Richard Hinds and Lewis Buxton have both been given the opportunity to stake a claim recently.
Central midfield appears to be a hotly contested position with a number of options available. Last season’s regular partnership of James O’Connor and Darren Potter have a battle on their hands to keep their places.
New signing Giles Coke has missed most of the pre-season due to injury but played well in a 90 minute run out at Doncaster. Youngster Liam Palmer has stood out from the crowd in the warm-up matches and has definitely played himself into contention for a place. Tommy Miller undoubtedly has the ability to be worthy of a first team places but has been blighted by injuries during his career at Hillsborough thus far and needs to prove his fitness in order to get a sustained run in the side.
Out wide, the versatile Daniel Jones could come into contention for a place and fellow new signings Chris Sedgwick and Gary Teale are also options, but quick-healed Jamaican Jermaine Johnson seems a certain starter providing the Owls keep hold of him as he has recently been linked with a move to Nottingham Forest.
In attack, high-profile summer signing Clinton Morrison will no doubt be looking for a starting place but he has only just started to feature from the bench in the pre-season matches due to niggling injury and has work to do during the week if he is to prove himself ready for a starting berth. At this stage it is more likely that two from Marcus Tudgay, Paul Heffernan and Neil Mellor will take to the field first against the Daggers.
It seems likely that Wednesday will adopt a 4-4-2 formation or a variation of that theme going into the new season, but whatever the shape may be it certainly seems encouraging that whoever is given a starting shirt is likely to know that they need to hit the ground running as there is plenty of competition for places all over the field.
*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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