Steve Bruce has spoken of his outstanding start to life as Wednesday boss and of his ambitions and plans for the club.
With just two defeats since he took over at the end of January, Bruce said: “I don’t think anybody could imagine that we would make a fist of getting into the play-offs. I have been delighted with the response of the players.
“Yes, we could be a bit more energetic, yes we could play with a bit more intensity but all-in-all the way the players have performed, I have to give them a big pat on the back.”
And he has his sights firmly fixed on mounting a promotion challenge next season, saying: “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think we can be in the top six – it’s what I demand.”
He added: “I’ve really enjoyed the challenge so far and if I ever needed a little bit of motivation then that came last week at Preston – to take over 5000 people for a game that was really a dead rubber was quite remarkable.
“There are not many clubs able to do that in the Championship.
“One of the big reasons I came here was can I get it rolling here, can we get on the march and can we bring back the thousands who are still out there.”
That will clearly mean a reshaping of the current ageing squad, with several players out of contract: “It’s a time for change. They’ve come close twice this group of players. Unfortunately, they’ve all grown a little bit older together so I think we need some younger, fresher legs in the squad and that will happen.”
The manager said that will not mean a big-money spending spree, with the club still restricted under the Financial Fair Play rules, explaining: “I understood that when I walked through the door and it didn’t put me off.
“There won’t be millions and millions of pounds being spent. We have to adhere to the Financial Fair Play rules – even if we had millions we are not allowed to spend it.
“It’s a difficult situation but we’re not alone in it and there are plenty of other clubs in the same boat as we are.”
Bruce added: “Unless you have parachute payments from the Premier League, with the rules the way they are and especially with the money the club has spent in the last two to three years then you are going to run into a difficulty.
“I knew that last Christmas when I entered negotiations with the chairman, I knew it would be a difficult time.”
However, he said it is far from doom and gloom and referred to his previous experience at Villa where the club didn’t spend millions, instead making good use of the loans and free transfer market and reaching last season’s play-off final.