Thinking back to the opening day at Derby, when 6000 of us made the short trip in glorious sunshine, most of us anticipated another memorable season as we were still riding high from our dramatic promotion from League One. The whole country was buzzing after the Olympic Games, yet it didn’t take long for us to hit the ground with a bump as we went two goals down. That game sort of mirrored our season, struggling for the first half, improving as it wore on. Despite a positive first few games, defeat at Palace started the first of two terrible runs from autumn through to winter. After Christmas our form was more like a play-off chasing team, yet our poor start meant we were always battling to stay up.
We brought in players such as Jay Bothroyd and Ross Barkley who I thought were the quality we needed if we wanted to push on. The latter made a positive impact and I wish he could have stayed longer. The former is best not mentioned. If he plays when QPR visit S6 next season, he should prepare himself for a hostile reception.
Free signings Anthony Gardner and Chris Kirkland joined with poor injury records, yet after slow starts they both proved to be key players in our campaign. Next season they will be hugely important if we are to be successful. Young players Rhys McCabe and Paul Corry played bit part roles, yet they are surely ones for the future and need time to develop before they get a more regular starting role in the second tier of English football.
Another theme for the season was the contrasting fortunes of our promotion squad. Jose Semedo and Chris Lines had a strong partnership in the heart of our midfield in 2011-12; yet Semedo was slowly drafted out of the team over the course of the season, whilst injury limited Lines’ appearances and he was eventually loaned out. Gary Madine struggled to get into the team and didn’t have the impact we wanted. He is another young player who may need time, but next season will be an important one for him if he stays at the club.
Reda Johnson, Jermaine Johnson, Michail Antonio and Lewis Buxton were key players. Miguel Llera struggled for a place early on, but played a big part in our solid defensive record in the second part of the campaign. If I’m honest, I’m surprised he has been offered a new deal. It seems the majority of out of contract players have been offered new deals. Giles Coke and David Prutton may stay, and they added some much needed steel to the team in our relegation battle, but I do have reservations over the direction of the team by looking to keep such players. Time will tell who re-signs for next season, personally I’d like Jermaine Johnson and Lewis Buxton to stick around of those out of contract players.
I hope we are going to bring in some quality to help us progress next season, I’d like to see us move away from the more direct style we played this year. I think Dave Jones tried to change the ethos early on, but when it was evident it wasn’t working, we reverted to the big men and ultimately it kept us in the division. That was the main priority and I’m not unhappy about that, but there are a lot of quality players who will be looking for clubs over the summer and if we can find the right ones to improve the first team there is a chance we can be at the right end of the table. The teams that have come down all have a good chance of being in the promotion battle, whilst the promoted teams look like strugglers, but in the crazy world of the Championship, anything can happen. I’m missing it already, and can’t wait for August 3rd 2013.
Up the Owls!
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl