When Sheffield Wednesday narrowly secured survival at the end of last season, the focus was immediately switched to transfers as Dave Jones looked to improve his squad and ensure the relegation worries of the 2012-13 season wouldn’t be repeated in 2013-14. Several players on loan at Hillsborough returned to their parent clubs, including star striker Leroy Lita and Leeds defender Danny Pugh, who both played a significant part in keeping the Owls up last campaign. Players such as Bastian Hery also left the club at the expiration of their contract, but no players left who still had a major impact on the first-team squad.
It is a fact that Wednesday relied heavily on loan players during last season, with Lita (who joined on loan from Swansea in January) and Jeremy Helan (who spent several months with the Owls on loan from Manchester City) being two integral parts of the side that managed to stay up on the final day. However, once these players left Hillsborough, it left Wednesday with a weakened squad heading into the summer.
Wednesday’s first signing this window was arguably one that might not have been predicted before it happened. I am, of course, talking about the transfer of Jaques Maghoma from Burton Albion. The Congolese international, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur, has impressed in League Two over the last four years, and as such has earned a move into England’s second tier following the end of his Albion contract earlier this summer.
The pacey midfielder fits into the mold of a pacey Wednesday attack, and whilst he has been injured since a friendly against Stockport County a few weeks ago, he has shown signs of being a good signing for Wednesday as they look to stay in the Sky Bet Championship again this year.
The second signing of the summer was a return to Hillsborough for left-sided French player Jeremy Helan, who joined permanently from Manchester City after impressing in the Championship last time around. The Owls fought off competition from sides like Wolves to seal his signature, and he looks to be a very good capture for Dave Jones’ side, as he is also a pacey, attacking player, much like Maghome. This is starting to develop into a bit of a theme.
Sheffield Wednesday’s third signing seemed to solve the summer-long problem of a lack of new strikers coming in, with Austrian striker Atdhe Nuhiu signing on a free transfer following the end of his contract with Rapid Vienna, one of Austria’s top club sides.
The 24-year-old was impressive during his time in his homeland as well as his loan spell in Turkey last season, and Nuhiu has started to show glimpses of talent in his early appearances for Wednesday, scoring a goal in their opening league fixture against QPR a couple of weeks ago. Although he isn’t particularly pacey, I feel he could turn out to be a shrewd signing for Dave Jones, and could prove vital in the new campaign.
Last season, one of the poorer aspects of the season for the Owls (apart from being in a relegation dogfight for much of the campaign) was the leaky defense, especially at center-back. Anthony Gardner, Miguel Llera, and Martin Taylor were all fighting for first-team places throughout the campaign, and whilst Gardner – who captained the squad – consistently performed for the team, the latter two players were patchy and put Wednesday in real trouble at times.
However, this fourth signing for the Yorkshire side does seem to have solved that problem, with former Hull City defender Kamil Zayatte signing on a free transfer after a successful trial during pre-season. The Guinean international spent two years with Hull City – between 2009 and 2011 – and has since been plying his trade in Turkey.
Dave Jones took the 28 year-old on trial during pre-season, and like me, was impressed with what he saw, despite the fact the transfer seemed to be dead at one point due to a disagreement in contract negotiations. However, he eventually did sign a contract at Wednesday, and has started both their league games so far this season.
There have also been a few signings for the Development Squad during the summer too, with Rafael Floro (formerly of Porto and Sporting Lisbon’s youth teams) signing for Sheffield Wednesday youngsters. These players aren’t expected to make a huge impact in Sheffield this season, but will develop over the coming season or two, and start to challenge the established first-team stars. There have also been numerous trialists used in the pre-season friendlies, although many of these have not been signed.
Despite the fact that the new signings look good on paper, the start to the season hasn’t been quite so rosy for Sheffield Wednesday. Consecutive league defeats to Queens Park Rangers and Burnley, coupled with a shock Capital One Cup exit at rivals Rotherham have put Wednesday under unneeded early pressure in the season, and leave Dave Jones with a lot to ponder.
This poor start to the season hasn’t been helped by Milan Mandaric’s reluctance to spend money on new players such as Leroy Lita, who has been linked with a move to Wednesday for several weeks, but the move seems to be going nowhere. There have been rumors that Sammy Yu, a former Birmingham City vice-chairman, is interested in buying Wednesday, and if this is in the pipeline, then it is logical that the current owner would be unhappy about pumping any more money into the club.
However, this is having a disruptive influence on Wednesday’s transfer business, and preventing them from getting the targets that will help them stay up. I think I personally am happy with the players who’ve come in, but I would like to see more business conducted by the end of the transfer window, and preferably sooner.