With a mask on his face and fire in his heart, Sheffield Wednesday striker Lee Gregory showcased exactly why he deserves a new contract at Hillsborough as the Owls produced their own spin-off of Misson Impossible.
This was a night when Wednesday needed a miracle. Never in play-off history had a team overturned a four-goal deficit from the first leg to reach the showpiece final.
Anyone in attendance last night did indeed witness history being made. Wednesday beat Peterborough 5-1 after extra time and then scored all five of their penalties during a 5-3 shootout victory.
After the League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium, the talisman will become a free agent. Now, the Wednesday talisman has given the club a bit of a quandary.
On last night’s showing, Gregory passed this latest audition with flying colours. The Hillsborough faithful worship him and he simply epitomises everything that playing for Wednesday should be all about.
Wednesday star Gregory deserves credit
Gregory has enjoyed a fine career. His strike partner at Stocksbridge Park Steels was non-other than Jamie Vardy and as a result, the 34-year-old’s career slips under the radar somewhat.
The player has scored goals wherever he has played. An exception is perhaps Mansfield Town. However, at One Call Stadium he was young, raw, and didn’t really get the game time he craved.
Make no bones about it though, Gregory knows where the net is. Okay, he’s perhaps not the sort of striker that has consistently reached the 20-goal mark, but his game is about so much more.
Gregory ran around the Hillsborough turf last night as though his life depended on the game’s outcome. This was a man who doesn’t just want to do well for the football club but one who cares deeply about it too.
The striker fractured his cheekbone before the Derby game on the season’s final day. For the play-offs he’s been fitted with a mask but there were no signs of him shirking his responsibility to be an absolute nuisance last night.
Gregory was fantastic. He grabbed an opportunistic goal to give Wednesday a two-nil lead on the night and almost sent the crowd into pandemonium with an audacious overhead kick. Not bad for someone who will be 35 in August!
The player was perhaps unfortunate to get himself on the other side of the score sheet too. He was credited with an own goal when Peterborough edged back in front; with Nathan Thompson’s header ricocheting into the net via Gregory’s facial attire. Talk about unlucky!
Wednesday have to offer Gregory a new contract
Wednesday is a club like no other. Not many clubs would have been capable of that mammoth effort last night, but the Owls can never, ever be discounted when Hillsborough is packed to the rafters.
Gregory has found the net 11 times for the Owls this season and registered five assists. He has played 46 games and has been a key component of a Wednesday machine that amassed 96 points during 2022/23.
There will be a decision to be made on the future of Gregory at the end of the season. Given his advancing years, some will question whether or not he’s worthy of a new contract at this stage of his career.
Last night said a lot about Gregory though. The Sheffield-born star is a man who thrives on the big occasion, he still looks in great shape and perhaps more crucially, he’s still contributing to games.
Taking all of that into consideration, Wednesday have to act. Regardless of what league the Owls find themselves in next season, the club would be extremely wise to get him tied down.