“Not today, not today, to the Premier League, just not today” was the chant after the playoff final on Saturday and to be honest it couldn’t have summed things up any better. It just wasn’t our day.
Losing the playoff final was naturally something that left all Owls’ fans bitterly disappointed; but we have to admit the better team beat us on the day. Hull City had the requisite extra gear that we didn’t, their players with top-flight experience nudged them over the line but it was far from a one-way battle.
Looking back over the season there’s no way any of us would have thought that the 2015/16 Championship campaign would come to a close with the Wednesday playing in the showpiece last game at the national stadium. While it’s one thing to get there, it’s another to win as proven at the weekend. You can have the majority supporters in the stadium; Wednesday fans made the stadium shake and made the most noise but it means almost nothing if the team doesn’t win.
However, one thing that came out of the final was a new found respect for our club from many onlookers. Looking around social media there were a raft of tweets and messages from supporters of other clubs who seemed almost as disappointed as we were at the final whistle.
The impression that our weekend at Wembley left on many though is that the Owls are on the cusp of turning that corner from which we’ve barely even peeked around for almost twenty years. We’ve languished in the second and third tiers of English football since relegation at the turn of the century, interspersed with a couple of memorable runs to promotion from League One. Any previous calls for a promotion push from the Championship in all honesty had been futile at best, as proven with just one previous top ten finish in the second tier before this season since our fall from grace.
Hull City were promoted with a team that had largely stuck with them despite their relegation from the top flight just 12 months earlier. They have built a team which fights for each other but also have that extra touch of quality which is needed to come though the hardest of challenges. It’s keeping the core of this Wednesday team together which I feel is now key for the future of our club. We’ve shown we’re so close to having a team that can earn promotion. If the players feel that too then maybe, next season will be our time.
Keiren Westwood, Tom Lees, Barry Bannan and Fernando Forestieri are crucial to our future, amongst others in the squad but they represent some of the key parts if we are to step one place higher next season. But if there were to be suitors for their services then, it would come as no surprise at all although I’d like them to see what could be possible than looking for pastures new.
Carlos Carvalhal has nurtured our group of players over the season into what feels like a second family. The players’ belief in themselves and each other has flourished and you could say they’ve even grown up together along with the supporters. At the final whistle in Wembley Stadium they looked around in amazement at how the 40,000 fans in blue and white continued to sing their hearts out, we’ve all stuck together and we’ve almost won what would have been almost the ultimate prize. Yes, the loss still hurts. We were so close. But finally, and legitimately, we know we’re not so far away from finally again achieving what we’d all want and we can with confidence all sing…
“We’re Sheffield Wednesday, we’re on our way back.”
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.