What a week for Wednesday, last Friday was a night to remember for everyone involved with the club from officials, players and the supporters.
Our grand old stadium was bouncing to the tune of over 30,000 Owls supporters backing the team to a playoff first leg advantage over Brighton. Then, on Monday night, the dream became a reality, the new Wembley stadium will welcome almost 40,000 Wednesday fans for the first time next weekend for the Championship playoff final.
Much is made about the effect that the supporters can have in helping a team get the victories needed for success, be it in a playoff game or in the fight against relegation and Carlos Carvalhal played a master stroke a few weeks ago ahead of the Cardiff game that sealed the team’s playoff spot and gave us genuine, tangible hopes of a showpiece finale to the season.
The Wednesday head coach tapped into the psyche of the Owls supporters like only a few before him have been able to do. He asked for the fans to back the players no matter what, support the players in success and failure and the rewards will be reaped. Although nothing has been decided yet with one more game to go in Wednesday’s season, those words have been a masterstroke and it’s symptomatic of the approach of the Portuguese tactician who the fans have completely taken to their hearts.
Carvalhal was announced as the new boss of the Owls team back in late June 2015 following the dismissal of Stuart Gray, he was a relative unknown quantity, some fans proclaiming it was a mistake. His CV had seem him take the helm of many big clubs but there seemed little consistency other than he moved around a lot! But right from the off, Carvalhal has gone about his job in a rather distinctive and respectful manner, refusing to speak ill of officials when things haven’t gone our way, not speaking of difficulties when injuries struck and consistently accentuated the positives.
His early team selection, or rotation policy was criticised. As many as ten changes between games early in the season brought murmurings of discontent but then when results started going the way of the Wednesday, those murmurings changed to more positive posturing as Carvalhal was proving his mettle, if ever it was needed, as a genuine student of the game we all love.
One of the most used phrases from the head coach has become something of a slogan at the club, ‘we concentrate on the next game’. It’s not the most exciting of thoughts; as the Wednesday moved closer to the top of the table many supporters asked…Why should we not get excited at the prospect of doing something special? As fans we can do that but the players and management haven’t afforded themselves that luxury.
Now we are in the latter stages of his first season at the helm of the Owls, the decision to concentrate on the immediate game ahead as well as rotate his players allowing others to rest has undoubtedly bore fruit. We had a fully fit squad ahead of the second leg of the playoff semi final; it is in no doubt related to the decisions of the head coach. The team have looked as fresh as they did on the first day of the season and they continue with a real bounce in their step and this is ahead of our 56th game in all competitions.
The supporters have been treated to some of the best football in years; we’re also on the cusp of arguably the biggest success seen by anyone at the club in over 20 years. The Owls aren’t the darlings of the media, we’re still the underdog, still the ‘sleeping giant’ and it suits us down to the ground.
Thinking back to almost 12 months ago and those early dissenters who weren’t in agreement with the appointment of the Portuguese head coach are certainly eating a large slice of humble pie right now.
We sing ‘Carlos had a dream’ although we’ve never heard him mention one and on Monday he mentioned two, one was to come to England, his second was to take his team to Wembley… I hope that he announces he’s achieved a third come the 28th May under the shadow of the arch at Wembley Stadium.
Terry Hibberd has been a Sheffield Wednesday season ticket holder for the last 20 years and his all time favourite Wednesday player is Chris Waddle. Terry is the editor of OwlsOnline.