David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Sheffield Wednesday’

Dreaming of the Arch

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

StuartGraySWFCSince I last wrote a blog the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday have changed quite significantly; for the better.  Even taking into account a 3-0 defeat at home to Wigan, which somewhat flattered them, we can be happy with our current situation.  We have created a gap between ourselves and the bottom three.  Whilst there is still work to do, I am now more than confident we will secure another season of Championship football.

First and foremost we must praise the man who has led the turn around.  I don’t think there were many people who would have picked Stuart Gray as our next permanent ‘Head Coach’ following Dave Jones’ dismissal.  I’d go as far as to say more than a few didn’t want him at all.  I’m not keen on people now slating Jones for things he said and did as our manager.  He’s in the past now, we don’t have to look back and think I told you so.

It’s interesting when you look at the difference Gray has made to the team.  We’ve seen a change in the style of football we play.  There is definitely more intricate passing and keeping the ball on the ground.  Chris Maguire returned from a loan spell and is finally fulfilling his potential.  He’s scoring goals and producing good performances.  He has proven to be a key player in our recent good run.  Being brought in from the wilderness he seems re-invigorated and his confidence is there for all to see.  His injury time winner against Barnsley was testament to how he has worked hard and taken his chance.  I sincerely hope he pushes on from here, as he is clearly a talented footballer.

Liam Palmer is playing consistently well and has made the right back birth his own.  Personally, I think he has got to grips with physical side of the game as the season has progressed.  Lewis Buxton will have a tough task to regain his place in the team.  It’s a blow to lose Jose Semedo to injury as he has been playing the way he did in our League One promotion campaign.  It finally seems he has found his feet at this level.

The defence has looked better, despite numerous changes of personnel at the back.  It’s worth mentioning Joe Mattock too, another player who has played very little football since joining the club however he has recently shown his worth.  If we can get a settled partnership at the heart of the defence it will only serve to improve us further.

The biggest change for me is the confidence the players have.  Granted the wins have fuelled this, but the turnaround from before Christmas has been dramatic.  Beating Leeds 6-0 also helped!

We now have a break from the rigours of Championship football and entertain Charlton in the FA Cup.  It’s a very winnable game; Charlton will feel that way too.  The winners of this tie will be rubbing their hands, and will be one game away from Wembley.  With one other Football League team guaranteed a place in the final eight, possibly our cross-city rivals, and the Premier league top four facing each other, this is our best chance yet of making our first visit to the national stadium.

We’ve had a while in the doldrums and outside the elite of English football.  Since relegation in 2000 we haven’t faced any of England’s top clubs.  We played Manchester City in 2006 but that was a very different prospect to the team they have today.  Even if Wembley isn’t to be, playing against Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool would certainly be welcomed

Some people say the semi-finals shouldn’t be at Wembley.  If you go regularly you may feel that way, but for me and the rest of our support, we dream of heading under the arch for the first time.  We would sell our allocation without question and offer a nice reminder that there is life outside the Premier League.  The magic of the cup will always exist.  It may not be as prominent as in the past, but in certain circumstances it will come to the fore.

Before any of that, there’s the small matter of Charlton.  An expectant Hillsborough will need to remember that they are on a par with us and will be equally motivated to advance.  We will need to get behind the team and hope they can keep the Wembley dream alive.

It’s a long time since we had some national recognition in a cup competition.  2014 could see that happen

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Trying to avoid January blues

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

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The festive period has been and gone with plenty of football played.  Overall it was a positive period for The Owls; creeping out of the Championship’s bottom three.  Despite this, the air of uncertainty remains and January could prove to be a key month in Sheffield Wednesday’s battle to stave off a third relegation to League One in recent times.

Firstly our managerial situation remains unresolved.  Stuart Gray is doing an OK job.  He’s had almost six weeks in charge yet we are still none the wiser as to whom the next permanent manager might be.  Dave Jones took charge very quickly following Gary Megson’s dismissal.  This seems to confirm the theory that Jones was given every possible chance and there was no real desire to relieve him of his duties, whilst Megson’s cards had been marked.

Milan Mandaric currently remains tight lipped.  My own view is he is waiting for a strong candidate who is willing to take the job; in the meantime he will give Stuart Gray time to see if he can turn things around as it will save the club some money.  Some people were disappointed when Ian Holloway took the vacant post at our relegation rivals Millwall.  I don’t think it was ever realistic to expect Mandaric to appoint Holloway.

For starters, he has family reasons for wanting to be in the London area which he has previously mentioned.  More specifically, he also took Mandaric’s Leicester City down from the Championship in similar circumstances back in 2008 which might put our chairman off.  The longer it goes on, the more chance there is of Gray keeping the reigns until the end of the season, especially if we can stay out of the danger zone.

As well as managerial uncertainty, we have a number of short term contract and loan players who have played a key role for us.  It was important we secured the services of Glen Loovens until the end of the season.  He has impressed during his short time at the club.  His signature became even more important when Roger Johnson opted for Premier League West Ham rather than continuing his loan spell with us.

It’s no surprise that once the money of the top flight comes into play that a Championship club can’t compete, especially ones that are struggling financially.  It’s a shame that we’ve resurrected Johnson’s career and brought him back to the shop window, only to have him snatched from us.  I wish him well in the future and just hope we can find a player of similar calibre to aid our cause.  If his debut at the Etihad is anything to go by, he’ll need more than luck!

The most important player in our team remains Connor Wickham.  He could definitely prove to be the difference between staying up and going down.  We’ve got him until the end of January, then who knows.  If he plays well, other clubs will come sniffing around.  He doesn’t seem to be in Gus Poyet’s immediate plans at Sunderland, and from his interviews he genuinely seems to enjoy it at Hillsborough.  As with everything it will all come down to money, which is the thing that worries me and fellow Wednesdayites.  We don’t have much, and there are plenty of clubs around us that do.

A further indication of how much difference Wickham currently makes to our team was in our FA Cup trip to Macclesfield.  We managed to avoid the upset at Moss Rose; however we still face a tricky game back at Hillsborough.  I would like to give credit to The Silkmen who performed well in the second half.  Granted, it wasn’t a great showing from us, but it seems some people forget that league teams rarely walk over non-league teams.

The Conference has some excellent players, many of whom are talented and failed to make it at big clubs.  This only adds to their determination and desire in such games, whilst league players are on a hiding to nothing.  I was disappointed to hear a well know podcast slating our performance and team.  It’s hard to make an assessment on a team from one game.  We should be good enough to beat a team three divisions below us, but the love for the competition stems from the fact that anything can happen.

I would say that we have a good chance of making the fifth round.  Macclesfield will be tough at home but we should have enough.  Very few teams would have fancied at trip to Rochdale who conquered our next opponents Leeds, but we would be favourites.  We are due a good cup run, and if we can make it through two tricky ties, there’s a better chance we could pull one of the top teams, which is what we all want.  For fans that go to games, the magic of the cup will always remain, with the hope of a glamour trip to a top team or bringing them to your patch.  We all look forward to the draw; however in recent years it has tended to result in disappointment for The Owls.

We now face teams at the top end of the table.  Leeds come to Hillsborough before a trip to Burnley, both of whom have aspirations of a return to the Premier League.  Depending on our cup results, we could then face a home game against promotion favourites Queens Park Rangers, before we head to The Den in a classic relegation six pointer.

Injury permitting we should have Connor Wickham for those games, and by that time we might have a permanent manager and a few signings to bolster our squad.  I hope the Leeds game passes without incident after the problems around last season’s fixture, and we can continue our unbeaten start to 2014!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Uncertain Times

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

SWFCLCFCI’ve been trying to write this blog for the past week but with changing circumstances at Hillsborough it’s been difficult to keep it current.  This blog is a mixture of my thoughts from the week leading up to the dismissal of Dave Jones, the aftermath of the sacking, and where we go from here.  Throw in a shock 2-1 win over league leaders Leicester City and there is a lot to discuss.

Before Jones was sacked, I was struggling to understand how we have ended up in our current predicament.  Where are Sheffield Wednesday as a club at this time?  People talk about the progress made by clubs such as Swansea, West Brom and Southampton.  All have a stable structure in place and are exceeding expectation.  We simply can’t replicate their models with the uncertainty that surrounds the future ownership of the club.

People can talk about our history and heritage.  Many remember fondly great times in the early nineties, when some of the best players in the country graced S6.  It’s going to take something drastic for those days to ever return, and would probably incorporate a sacrifice of our traditions like Hull City (can I call them that?) or Cardiff.  One of the most difficult things to swallow it that we are currently a yoyo club flitting between the Championship and League One.

Moving on to the events of the weekend, you would think being a Sheffield Wednesday fan I would be used to the revolving managerial door.  I admit, I am probably at one extreme where I can always find a reason not to sack a manager.  I hate the way the football society puts pressure on managers as if sacking them is the only way to resolve an issue.  Sometimes it might be, but more often than not it’s a short term fix and doesn’t address the root of the problem.  Some clubs could change the manager every year and with their set up wouldn’t see a major impact.  We are not one of those clubs.

Saying all that, and even though I defended Dave Jones and have argued against his dismissal, I believe Milan Mandaric had little other choice following our defeat at Blackpool.  The lack of wins was the telling factor in Milan relieving Dave Jones of his duties.  He admitted it was a decision he didn’t want to take after developing a strong personal and professional relationship with the manager.  Whilst I would like a long term plan, our chairman understandably needs to think about the immediate future and his investment.

This latest sacking left me feeling pretty down beat.  We owe a lot to Dave Jones.  He’s set up some good foundations in terms of scouting and the academy.  Some people say he took us up with Megson’s team.  That Megson team was stuttering.  I don’t believe we would have won automatic promotion the way we did had Dave Jones not been our manager.  Despite the fact that it was ‘only’ League One, the culmination to 2011/12 season and pipping our bitter rivals to promotion will live long in the memory of all who support the club.

People talk about Jones’ lack of passion.  It’s the lack of results that counted against him.  My only criticism of him in light of his sacking, is I think he could and should have taken more responsibility when things weren’t going well.  The team that beat Leicester City 2-1 on Tuesday was his team. Giles Coke was the only player to start the game that Jones hadn’t brought to the club, along with academy graduate Liam Palmer.

One thing we can’t argue is that Dave Jones could attract top players.  I worry that we may not bring in the calibre of players such as Matty Fryatt, Roger Johnson and Connor Wickham in future.  I’m just relieved the latter will be with us until the New Year.  He was unplayable in our latest victory.

Few would have put money on us beating Leicester, but was anyone really surprised?  There is often a spike in form when a manager is fired.  After five minutes I thought we were going to get hammered, but Connor Wickham’s goal lifted the whole place and the players showed some character.  It always amazes me how much more a team fights and battles under these circumstances.  Where was that effort and commitment in dire performances against Derby County and Huddersfield?  Confidence was probably a factor in those games, and you can rightly blame the manager, but the players must shoulder much of the blame.  Those players need to work hard to get us out of the mess we are in.

We now have the usual speculation about who the next new manager will be.  As fans we will never agree who is the right man for the job.  Going back to what I said earlier, we have to remember where the club is and be realistic in who we can bring in.  I would definitely question us poaching a manager from another club.

We don’t have much money, and there are enough proven managers out of work to choose from.  There are rumoured loans taken out against Hillsborough Stadium.  You look down the M1 at the difficulties Coventry fans have had with their stadium and we don’t want to end up in that situation.  I perish the thought of having to play at Bramall Lane, which unfortunately leads me onto one of the candidates to be our next manager.

Neil Warnock is a proven Championship manager with numerous promotions on his CV and arguably the best candidate for the job.  I’m not bothered about comments he made about the club in the past as I believe that if he was our manager he would work hard and do his best to be a success.

Despite this, I really do not want him to be our manager.  I don’t particularly like the man from his time in charge of our rivals.  I feel that somehow he wants to lord it over us.  It would take a great deal for him to get the majority of fans on side, me included.  I think some people would never accept him. I would never boo him, however if things weren’t working, it wouldn’t take long for people to turn on him.

I do think that any appointment should be a short term one as Milan is actively trying to sell the club.  We ought not to give a manager a two or three year contract.  If we know it’s a temporary manager with the aim of keeping us up, it might allow us to plan long term if and when any takeover happens.  Ultimately, if Milan Mandaric wants Neil Warnock to manage us and Warnock is willing to accept the challenge, I have no doubt that he will  be put in place.  Milan showed that he is not overly swayed by fan opinion in the way he sacked Megson and kept Jones as long as he did.

Personally, I don’t see the rush to appoint.  I’d let Stuart Gray and Lee Bullen have a bit of time until we find the right person.  That may be days, that may be weeks, but we had a good manager and he couldn’t get the best out of this squad.  There are no guarantees that a new boss will keep us up.  We face a massive challenge in maintaining our championship status, which is essential, as I don’t think anyone has the appetite for a return to league one.

Up the Owls.

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

So far, not so good

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

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The joys of football.  November is almost upon us, and Sheffield Wednesday are still to register a victory.  Bristol City and Sunderland are the only other teams without a league victory; however they have both won cup matches this term.  We’ve had our chances; some might say we have been unlucky.  We’ve not suffered many defeats in that time.  Birmingham aside, all losses have been by a single goal. 

The stark reality is that if we don’t see an improvement in results very quickly, a return to League One looks ominous.  Eleven games in, we’ve seen enough to make some judgements on the squad and the season so far. 

We’ve got the basis of a good team when everyone is fit.  If we’d had this group of players since pre-season, I’m pretty sure we would have at least one victory on the board.  Stephen McPhail, Matt Fryatt and Roger Johnson have added some quality to the squad, but their arrivals in September left them playing catch.  The latter two especially, did not have an ideal preparation for the season.  They now have games under their belts and should kick on. 

There is a chance that Matt Fryatt may not be with us much longer.  His parent club Hull City have striker Danny Graham out for a few weeks.  Even If they don’t recall him, other higher placed Championship clubs seem to be sniffing around.  To lose him would be a big blow, especially as we still need another striker with him in the squad.

The back five are playing OK.  I still have some reservations about Kamil Zayette, who was preferred to Miguel Llera in our last trip to Bolton.  With Kirkland, Buxton, Reda Johnson and Roger Johnson, we have good players who can more than compete at this level.  I’d prefer Llera to Zayette, but I think the manger will continue to chop and change between the two of them.

In terms of our wide men, Jacques Maghoma has had a difficult transition following his summer move from Burton and has played a bit part role.  Jermaine Johnson has been in and out of the team through form and suspension.  Jeremy Helan seems to be improving as the season develops.  I’ve mentioned this before and I continue to believe we have not seen the best of Michail Antonio this season.  He has played in various positions.  Hopefully a settled run on the wing might help improve his impact on games.

Central midfield remains an area of concern.  McPhail has added some guile which was sorely lacking earlier in the season.  Rhys McCabe seems have fallen out of favour and Liam Palmer is back on the side-lines after showing some early season promise.  Giles Coke, David Prutton and Jose Semedo have jostled for a starting berth but none have convinced.  Losing Semedo for three matches following his harsh red card at Bolton is bad news though, as the South Yorkshire derby this weekend is his type of game.

Up front, Atdhe Nuhiu has struggled to hold down a starting place.  Gary Madine has troubles off the field and I’m unsure whether Chris Maguire is injured or unfancied.  For me, here lies our main problem.  A failure to score convert chances to seal much needed victories.

Whilst the sacking season of mangers is well underway, Dave Jones remains at the helm of our club.  Milan Mandaric gave an interview this week where he talked about his continued commitment to the club.  I didn’t doubt it; he has been open and honest with us since day one.  It helps to hear from the chairman through difficult times and amid continued takeover speculation, however even that seems to be off the cards at the moment.  It was interesting that he didn’t talk much about the manger during that ten minute interview.  He’s stuck with him this far, and I don’t think he wants to replace him, however if Milan thinks a change of manager is the right thing to do, I don’t doubt for a second that he will act.

So we head up the M1 to Barnsley this weekend for a game live on Sky.  They managed to leapfrog us last weekend with victory at home to Middlesbrough.  Last season, our trip to Oakwell saw a change in fortunes as we ended a torrid winless run despite a poor performance.  A repeat this year is desperately needed.  Chris O’Grady will be out to show Dave Jones he was wrong to show him the Hillsborough exit door.  It’s inevitable that he will score, but as long as we score more, that won’t matter a jot.

As the chairman has said, it’s time stick together and get behind the team.  It’s going to be a tough old season but there is plenty of football to be played and we always have hope. 

Starting this weekend; three points please!

Up the Owls.

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Questions to Answer

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

DJ

I resisted the temptation to tweet my thoughts on our performance against Birmingham at the weekend, as I wanted to take a little more time to reflect. I could also sense that my views differed from many who were posting comments.

The news prior to kick off that we were not playing with a recognised striker did concern me; however it seems to be an increasing trend in the game. When Mourinho did it, there were all sorts of theories about sending a message to the owner about what the team needed. Is that what Mr Jones was thinking? Some might say he wasn’t thinking.

The game itself was terrible. We were thoroughly out played by a team I would consider at our level. Jesse Lingard showed why he is on the Champions’ payroll.  It was a performance to instantly forget. I’ve seen worse performances over the years. Everyone is desperate for us to sign a striker. Who knows what is going on behind the scenes?  A takeover may well be imminent, but I think we need to hear from Milan Mandaric in the current situation.

My worst fears for the season have come to fruition. A poor start has led to unrest and calls for the manager’s head. It feels like we are in turmoil, without a win and hovering above the relegation zone. It’s important to remember it’s early in the season and we had a similar run last year. I suppose it’s a positive that there have been three worse teams so far and we don’t sit in a worse position, but given Yeovil’s performance at Hillsborough recently, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who went to that game saying we were the better team. I can’t see Bolton sitting bottom of the table for long either; however look at Wolves last season.

To be honest, I find it hard to argue against the anti-Dave Jones brigade at the moment. Other than my opinion that managers should be given time and sacking the manager is not always the answer, there are so many things that we can question of him. We all have a right to our views, and I can understand why people think a change in manger will help. It may help us in the short term, but our instability as a club will continue. He would add to a long line of managers we have sacked. I can’t think of a manager since Ron Atkinson in 1991 that left rather than being sacked. I wonder whether we could afford to pay Jones off and I don’t think he will get the boot. Famous last words?

The thing is, it is right to question the manager when a team is struggling.  It is right to ask why we haven’t brought in a striker when everyone can see it should be our priority area of recruitment.  I would question why we have re-signed out of contract players then tried to send them out on loan. As fans that put hard earned money into the club, we want to know what’s happening.

The point I would like to stress is that you can ask all those questions, and we might not like the answers, but does that always mean we need to change the manager.  Whoever is in charge, an element of the support would be sceptical. Some fans would welcome Gary Megson back with open arms. I personally wouldn’t. I speak to other fans and we all have a range of views, it’s one of the beauties of the game we love.

I do think we should be asking more questions of the players. They have lapsed during games and it has cost us. Some players have underperformed and we need that to change. Birmingham aside, it has been fine margins in our results and this is something else we should take into consideration.

One thing that really worries me is that some fans think Paolo Di Canio is the answer. His histrionics whilst managing both Sunderland and Swindon Town are enough reason not to want him. Personally, I remember traveling to Middlesbrough the week after he pushed Paul Alcock. I along with our travelling fans sang his name as we were battered 4-0. He told us he would be back when his ban ended on Boxing Day. He wasn’t. You can argue the club didn’t back him but you can’t say for a second that the fans didn’t support him. We were the ones who were let down had to sit through a drab 1-0 defeat at home to Leicester City the day we expected his triumphant return. That is not the type of person I want managing my club.  He should not be given the same status as past players like Waddle, Hirst, Sheridan and Nilsson at our club.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting. Will the takeover happen? Will Dave Jones remain our manager? Are we set for another almighty scrap to stay in the division, or can we somehow turn the situation round and edge up the table? Will we ever sign a striker? The soap opera will continue, and we will still continue to support the club. I just hope I can write something positive very soon. We move onto our game against Doncaster who have had the upper hand in our most recent meetings. I just hope that we all get behind the team and make it a positive atmosphere at Hillsborough. We all want the same outcome.

Up the Owls!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Sacrificing Tradition

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

MM

Well it’s been an underwhelming start to the season to say the least.  No win and an exit from the League cup at the hands of local rivals Rotherham United.  Two points on the board as we head to the Middlesbrough.  We have lost on every previous visit to the Riverside Stadium.

We have played well at times this season.  Lapses in concentration at key times have cost us, but we haven’t had that bit of luck you sometimes need.  We should have been awarded at least two penalties.  I’m optimistic that over the next few weeks we’ll add that bit of quality from a Premier League club that could make all the difference.  We are in desperate need of a striker who can put the ball in the back of the net.  I’d welcome the return of Leroy Lita or lifelong Blade Billy Sharp.  I’d also like to see some quality added in midfield.  At least we have Reda Johnson back as our main goal scoring threat!?  That added to the return of Jermaine Johnson for our trip up the A1, we have some cause for optimism.

My big concern at the moment is the negativity from last season will soon creep in.  There have been rumblings of discontent so far, but if we don’t pick up points soon the discontent will inevitably grow.  Our expectations as Wednesday fans exceed our current level.  It’s looking increasingly like another battle to stay in the division, and that is probably the standard of our current squad.  I was really disappointed we couldn’t get the win against Millwall, but it was only game four.  There is plenty of football to be played in the coming months.

All this makes me think about how much I want the team to return to the Premier League, but at what cost?  Hull City have changed their name.  Cardiff City have changed the colour of their kit.  Both secured victory in the Premier League last weekend.  I don’t believe either set of fans was thinking about these changes at that moment.  The atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium looked amazing.  I wonder if their fans would have preferred a home game against Millwall and to be wearing blue.

It’s got me thinking about what changes I would be willing to accept if someone was to invest heavily in our club to take us back to the big time.  I certainly don’t think I could handle us wearing a red kit.  It is the colour of our biggest rival and goes against everything being an Owl stands for.  I’m not sure any colour change would be acceptable.  In the 60’s, we dropped our traditional stripes.  People still say that was a bad move to this day!  It does show that meddling with tradition has happened before

Changing our name?  We could surely never lose the ‘Wednesday’ aspect, but could we be Wednesday Owls?  Would that mean we could be taken away from Sheffield?  I would always want us to play in the steel city.  I’m proud to be from Sheffield and proud it is in the clubs name.  I think our nickname would always need to exist.  The Owls is another part of our history.  There are some things you just can’t change.  The unique aspect of having a day of the week in our name is special to me.  It forms the basis of songs, catchphrases and banter with our rivals.  I hope that such proposals never come into play.

If and when Milan Mandaric sells our club, I hope it is for the better and to someone who wants to invest in the community as well as the club.  Keep the fans onside, and it will benefit all concerned.

I look at the owners of Manchester City, who are investing in the community as well as the team.  This should be a pre-requisite for anybody buying a football club that is dear to tens of thousands of people.  I have great sympathy for Coventry City fans expected to travel to Northampton when they have a perfectly good stadium siting empty.  Look at what happened to Wimbledon.  Different circumstances but the same outcome; a move away from home.  The Newcastle United owner seems to do things just to antagonise the supporters.  These issues can happen to any club at any time.  It’s a sad aspect of modern football, where the influence and voice of fans is reducing.

The more I think about it, I would rather we maintain our traditions, even if that means we never return to the Premier League.  That has to be a better option that selling out to some foreign billionaire who can change things on a whim.  That said, if it were to happen, I’d still love and support the club.  It’s in my blood.

Up the Owls!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Another challenging season lies ahead

Monday, July 29th, 2013

DJ

I’ve spent the summer enjoying a variety of sports’ including cricket, tennis, cycling, rugby and golf. However I’m pleased that I can now get back to my sporting love; football and more importantly, Sheffield Wednesday.

Not much seems to have happened close season. I wasn’t the only person surprised to see Miguel Llera, Giles Coke and David Prutton offered new deals. All three made a valuable contribution in our successful battle for survival, but I thought Dave Jones would be looking to bring in more quality players, especially as both Coke and Prutton seemed to be surplus to requirements and farmed out on loan.

I was pleased and unsurprised that Lewis Buxton and Jermaine Johnson were offered new deals. They are our longest serving players, and whilst Buxton remains one of the best right backs in the division, Johnson can be unplayable on his day.

The arrival of Jacques Maghoma from Burton Albion is an interesting signing. It’s a big step from League Two to the Championship, but I think he will have a battle to make the starting XI and should be given time to find his feet. Jeremy Helan has already proven his ability at this level, and his arrival on a full transfer from Manchester City was welcomed by most fans. We’ve added striker Atdhe Nuhiu who courted interest from some Premier League teams. I don’t think we know enough about him at the moment; however the fact that he has signed a three year deal must mean the management team have high expectations of him.

Overall another challenging season lies ahead. The quality of players plying their trade in the Championship seems to improve year on year. QPR have a squad of players earning mega bucks. Whether all those players will remain come September 3rd seems unlikely, but with a trip to Loftus Road opening our campaign, it’s more than likely that there will be numerous multi million pound players on display. It’s a tough start for us, but if they underestimate us we could surprise them.

Realistically, our aim should be a top half finish.  We need to progress from last season. It’s an important campaign for manager Dave Jones.  He was given the grace of a year at this level with the club, and although expectation was high last season, this coming year patience will be thin if results don’t materialise. We started off well last season, only to fall away early on. This year, we need to steer clear of the trap door. My fear is that if we have a slow start a section of our fan base will call for the manager’s head, which I believe would be detrimental to the progress of the club.

With the way the Championship is, there’s always hope that we could mount a promotion campaign and challenge for the play-offs. Last season, I didn’t want a relegation battle and didn’t foresee the struggles we would encounter. Again I’m confident we can steer clear of the relegation zone, I hope that confidence isn’t misplaced. Overall, I’d be satisfied with a mid-table finish, with a more attractive style of play. I want to see progress and improvement on last season.

With speculation rife that a take-over is imminent, I’d be keen to have any potential sale of the club dealt with quickly and effectively. I don’t want previous experiences of proposed take-overs to re-surface. We’ve had too many false dawns in the past to put our hope in new investment coming into the club.

Milan Mandaric has always maintained that he would sell the club when the right offer comes in.  My concern is that we are sold to someone who then destroys our club.  I’ve got faith that Milan wouldn’t do that, after all he saved us in our hour of need and has experienced the club at its best with promotion.  I hope it’s the action on the pitch that marks our season, not happenings off it.

A return to the Premier League remains the ultimate aim. 30 years ago we returned to the top flight following a substantial absence.  Here’s hoping a year ending in ‘4’ proves to be a fantastic one for the club. I wouldn’t mind a trip to Wembley, it’s long overdue!  We can dream…

Up the Owls!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Sheffield Wednesday’s season review

Friday, May 24th, 2013

It’s been a few weeks since Sheffield Wednesday secured their Championship status for another season, and it has given some time for reflection of the past nine months and where our club is heading.

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

The run in…

Friday, March 29th, 2013

This international break has seemed to go on forever. Our defeat to champions elect Cardiff whist frustrating, wasn’t unexpected. The problem came with every other result going against us. Only Bristol City lost, but we would have preferred a draw in their match against Wolves. Evidently people would feel low in the circumstances, but the air of negativity that has clouded our season re-surfaced. We’ve had to wait to put things right.

I think one thing I should make clear is that we have always been in a relegation scrap. A four point cushion is only secure when you have one game left. When you have a woeful run of results, which we have had twice this season, you are always going to struggle.

Our form has been good since December. Barnsley and Peterborough have been in and around us all season, and have picked up points. Ipswich’s bad start has kept them in trouble, whilst Wolves have dropped into the mire as the season has progressed.  Bristol City look like they are losing the battle, but I wouldn’t write them off just yet.

A betting man would back three from the bottom six, yet I would say any team up to 11th place still need to get some points to ensure survival. It could well be a record high points total for the teams that go down. Blackburn have continued to be in turmoil and are hovering dangerously close to the trap door. Along with Wolves they could face successive relegations. There are plenty of teams in the mix and our destiny is firmly in our hands.

So we look at our run in. We don’t face any of the teams in the battle for promotion. Conversely, that means we have a few games against teams in and around us. First up, it’s Barnsley. No love lost between us, that’s for sure.  We were fortunate to come away from Oakwell with a win which kick-started our season just before Christmas. Our biggest attendance of the season will be at Hillsborough, and we are all looking forward to the game. I just hope the negativity doesn’t creep in again, even if we go behind. We need to support the team and make sure Hillsborough is a help rather than a hindrance in our battle to beat the drop. A win in this game would be a huge result and give us some breathing space as the games come thick and fast. Defeat doesn’t bear thinking about.

I actually think that our away form could be the key. The players seem to be less inhibited on the road. First up Bristol City, who will need to beat us. That will be a tense affair. We play Millwall a few days before their FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley, which could work in our favour. Leeds is a local derby and anything can happen, but I think we are more than capable of picking up points there. The awful state of the pitch at Bloomfield Road might suit our game more than Blackpool. Our last away game is at London Road. That could be a deciding game if the Championship status of Peterborough or ourselves is still in question.

We’ve got the players to get us out of this. Stuart Holden is an exciting addition. I hope he is match fit. His injury is one of the reasons Bolton find themselves at this level. I wonder if he is able to overcome the injury problems and reproduce the form he showed in the Premier League. He certainly gives us a different option in the middle of the park. Steve Howard was a surprise to most of us. We have been linked with him countless times in the past, and we have finally signed him in the twilight of his career. His experience might be useful in and around the squad. Who knows, he might pop up with the goal that secures our Championship status. We all know it’s a funny old game. I don’t know much about Seyi Olofinjana, so I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen him play.

The loss of Michail Antonio is a blow. He’s been inconsistent this season, but always offers a threat, and has provided some key goals for us this term. Jermaine Johnson hasn’t provided any magical moments this season.  Despite his flaws, he could be a key player in the run in if he can produce some performances like he has done in the past. I’ve also noticed a change in Gary Madine recently. It seems he is more confident when he comes on the pitch. He’s struggled for goals with the step up from League one, but the odd one in the run in wouldn’t go amiss.

I am, like all Wednesday fans, desperate for survival. Nobody wants another season in league one, but it is a possibility. We can’t assume we are going to beat the teams around us. We’ve all got to stick together and as fans support the team. Blackburn and Ipswich still have to come to Hillsborough; and they could be as crucial as the Barnsley game. We finish at home to Middlesbrough who’s thoughts might well be on the beach by that point. Either way, let’s hope we have our thoughts on the summer break by that game…for the right reasons!

Up the Owls!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

The King Power Diaries

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

On Saturday, along with over 3000 other Owls, I will be making the short trip to Leicester as we take on the promotion hopefuls. Our Championship status for next season is far from certain. I’d settle for a point or two from this weekend and the subsequent visit of Cardiff. A win in either game would be greatly received, heading into a run of fixtures against teams in and around us. This league continues to be as unpredictable as ever. Our upcoming opponents are both having a bit of a dip in form, but the quality in their squads will mean that they can and likely will get back on track.

Heading to Leicester, I have mixed memories of previous games at the King Power (formerly Walkers) Stadium. Since they left Filbert Street in 2002 we’ve travelled to played The Foxes five times, winning twice, losing twice with one draw. Given our troubles over that period it’s not a bad return.  Even the goals scored during those games are level with 8 each.

I can vividly remember all those games for a variety of reasons, however three stand out; two of which I attended, the other I didn’t, but I’ll come to that.

My first experience of the King Power Stadium was in December 2006. This is one of the best away performances I have seen. An emphatic 4-1 victory only tells half the story. Granted, Leicester spent most of the second half playing with ten men, but that didn’t take away from what followed with three spectacular long range goals. Chris Brunt added to his first half penalty with a trademark left foot screamer. Glen Whelan crashed one in off the bar with a ferocious shot from all of 40 yards; this was the best of the bunch for me. Finally Marcus Tudgay put the icing on the cake as he completed the rout cutting in on the angle to beat the keeper from distance. A fantastic away day with the Owls.

To say my last visit was a disappointment would be a slight understatement. Whilst Brian Laws had overseen our marvellous 4-1 victory, he also managed his last game against Leicester. In a season that ended in eventual relegation, we were well beaten and lucky to get away with a 3-0 defeat.  I remember a massive feeling of dejection at the final whistle and the writing being on the wall for our gaffer. I was certainly fed up of hearing Kasabian song ‘Fire’ being played over the tannoy after each goal.  Laws had led us to our first victory at Bramall Lane in my lifetime and our first derby double in 95 years.  It was sad to see him depart in such circumstances.

The third game that sticks in my memory was in April 2008. I was in Ireland and had to listen to the game in an internet café in Carrick on Shannon. I was gutted to be missing the game. We were deep in the relegation mire at the time. This was our penultimate match and we were just below Leicester in the table. Defeat would have made them safe whilst leaving us in a perilous position. Southampton were also in the mix but we knew victory would put our fate in our own hands. We went 1-0 down early in the game but crucially got an equaliser on the stroke of half time. Bartosz Slusarski…hardly a name synonymous with the club, but he has his part in our history. Steve Watson gave us a crucial lead before the much maligned Leon Clarke made one of his few key contributions to the club by sealing a 3-1 victory in the dying moments. In a game that saw two missed penalties and so much at stake, Wednesday pulled through showing character and fighting spirit. We stayed up; Leicester went down.

So we’ve had a love hate relationship with the King Power Stadium. This Saturday’s game could be a pivotal moment in our battle for Championship survival. Leicester have spent a huge amount of money on players yet still seem destined for a repeat of last season with the play offs. They will be under pressure from their fans given their current run of form, whilst the travelling Owls will have hope rather than expectation. Let’s hope we make it our third victory at the East Midlands club’s current home.

Up the Owls!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl