Sheffield Wednesday finally taking flight

Full disclosure; I’m Irish and have been a fan of Sheffield Wednesday for the past twenty-four years. I can tell you the exact moment I started supporting as well. John Sheridan hitting a stunner of a goal against Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup Final.

I was ten years old, I loved John Sheridan as a player, I disliked Manchester United, and it was a match made in heaven that was sure to see me celebrating a few more trophy wins in the coming years. It has to be the biggest example of glory hunting exploding in your face ever.

 

Sheffield Wednesday, named because of the Wednesday playing cricket club the club were formed by, haven’t won a trophy since. We’ve been to two finals, both losing efforts against George Graham’s Arsenal in 1993, but we have also been relegated to the third tier of English football twice in that time.

It’s now almost fifteen years since Wednesday last played in the Premier League and the happy memories since then have been few and far between.

The false dawn of the 2005 play-off victory over Hartlepool, the double victories over Sheffield United in the 2008/09 season and the advent of YouTube allowing me to Chris Waddle’s free kick against Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final in 1993 over and over again.

Hope hasn’t been fully extinguished in the past decade and a half though. Average attendance has remained around twenty thousand despite the dips in to the third tier and the years of mediocrity in the Championship.

The squad seems more settled and focused on promotion than they have in years, Keiran Westwood reportedly turned down a January move to Liverpool to remain at the club, and results have been better.

Stuart Gray is in his second full season as manager of the club and has been steady, if not spectacular. Steady was probably what was needed at the time of Dave Jones departure but he will need to things up now that ownership of the club has changed hands.

Similar to Gray, the now ex-chairman, Milan Mandaric, very much became the steady ship Wednesday needed in a time of crisis. He didn’t arrive from Leicester City in 2010 with that reputation but the reality is he saved the club from potential bankruptcy.

There have been grumblings about lack of investment from the terraces but now that his reign is over its right to applaud the man for putting the club back on a sound enough financial footing to attract new investors.

 

What to make of the new owners is anyone’s guess. The club has been purchased outright by a Thai consortium fronted by Dejphon Chansiri, whose family owned business is the largest producer of tuna in the world.

Deadline day deals were made for a crop of young players from Manchester United, CSKA Sofia and Moreirenses in Portugal to round out the squad and the right noises came from the chairman about the future.

That isn’t to say that the club are looking for promotion this year. Wednesday currently sit in tenth in the Championship table, a full eleven points off the play-off positions. It would take a major capitulation by Watford, Brentford or Ipswich for the side to even dream of catching up and grabbing one of their spots.

Next season promises to be the real watershed moment for the club’s hopes of becoming a Premier League force once more. The summer will be the first real chance to get an understanding as to how the new owners plan to run things.

Not every new money owner brings prosperity, Blackburn Rovers can attest to how a change doesn’t always make things better. But how they invest in the club and what, if anything, they change in the backroom staff will be telling as to what the coming years holds for the Owls.

Until then I’ll be on YouTube watching Waddle curl that beauty in to the net on repeat.

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