Sheffield Wednesday should stick rather than twist this summer after close call

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Sheffield Wednesday during play-off semi-final defeat Credit: PA Images
Sheffield Wednesday during play-off semi-final defeat Credit: PA Images

Much like Bob Geldof, Sheffield Wednesday do not like Mondays. The injury-time heartache suffered at Hillsborough to start the week ended the season in the worst possible fashion, leaving the Owls with a sense of ‘what if’ after two legs in which they failed to reach the standards set during much of the season.

But there should be no questions as to where Sheffield Wednesday go from here; it is time to stick rather than twist over the summer. Darren Moore has faced plenty of criticism during his time in the S6 dugout. Every defeat has brought semi-apocalyptic claims that this is the end of the world for Owls fans while victories have afforded Moore the chance to achieve icon status in South Yorkshire.

As ever, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. That is exactly where Wednesday are after seeing their promotion campaign come to an end. For the first time in half a decade, they appear to have found a good balance in the squad between settled and fresh.

Carlos Carvalhal’s Premier League-chasing side was allowed to get stale as the rot set into the club alongside off-the-field issues while the team that suffered relegation to the third tier had little affiliation with the support.

 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

The current troops have been far from perfect, but they are better than what came before and only the finest margins of lapsed concentration at the death denied them 30 minutes extra in their Hillsborough home to make it to Wembley and 90 minutes from an immediate return to the Championship.

Such margins shouldn’t dictate a huge turnaround. There is no need for an inquest into why Wednesday didn’t achieve promotion this season. Finishing in the top six without being good enough for the two automatic promotion places seemed a likely and attainable target given the club’s struggles through a transfer embargo, the high turnover of players and counting the cost of relegation.

Many seem to forget that entering the play-offs means you have, at face value, a one-in-four chance of promotion. There are fluctuations, of course, but three play-off teams in each division will not go up; they can’t all be catastrophic failures. Defeat for Sunderland would have been equally disappointing and frustrating, given the respective historical stature of both outfits.

There are no immediate concerns that Moore will lose his job. The rumour mill is non-existent on that score. The hyperbole that has and will continue to pour out, borne of high emotions, should be ignored.

Wednesday have a got a good thing going – a measured and fine manager at this level, a playing squad with limitations but a lot more good than bad, and a fanbase who were allowed to dream again following the tumultuous seasons that came before.

The Owls have now suffered late heartbreak two seasons running – relegation came on the final day of last season. To hurt is not a nice feeling, but it is better than feeling apathetic to the situation. Wednesday fans now have a manager and a squad they can connect with.

Nobody embodies that spirit better than the talismanic Barry Bannan, who regularly converses with supporters and feels he owes fans despite the mess being far more the fault of owner and chairman Dejphon Chansiri than anyone on the pitch or in the dugout.

Twisting this summer would be admitting defeat. Twisting this summer would be going back to square one all over again. Sheffield Wednesday have had their fair share or poor or ill-fitting managers in the recent past – remember Jos Lukukay, anyone? – but Moore is only getting better and better.

Fifteen of their 24 league victories this season came in the second half of the campaign. Contending with injuries to crucial players has been a full-time occupation. The momentum is there to take into next season with minor adjustments rather than a 60-day makeover. No team has a divine right to get out of the third tier, no matter the history, stature and size of the support.

But Sheffield Wednesday do have the makings of a team that can earn their way out of League One next season. After the heartbreak has settled and the dust dies down, Wednesday can get to work on making the marginal upgrades that give them an even better chance of promotion this season.

At no point of this campaign did securing a play-off place look certain until it actually was on the final day of the season with a commanding victory against Portsmouth.

Pompey are one of more than a handful of Wednesday’s third-tier contemporaries who will have looked at the Owls’ campaign with envy. Like Ipswich, like Charlton, and like a fair few others, they disappointed all season long. Sheffield Wednesday felt disappointment at coming so close.

Remove the gravitas and history of the club and this squad of players with this capable manager and backroom staff probably slightly overachieved. Get it right this summer and make the transition from this season to the next as seamless as possible and the good times could be on the horizon for Sheffield Wednesday once more.

The article Sheffield Wednesday should stick rather than twist this summer after close call appeared first on Football365.com.

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