I missed Sheffield Wednesday’s home game against Brighton as I was away with friends. I followed the game via Twitter, watched the highlights and read up on the match reports, but I always feel like I’m missing something. It’s different when I don’t travel to an away game as I don’t make every trip, but ever since I got my first season ticket in 1995 (with the strap line – A Season ticked with Sheffield Wednesday…is a ticket to the stars) I’ve hated missing games at Hillsborough.
It is rare that I miss a home game, but as you get older priorities change and life events happen. Ultimately, I’m writing this blog from an unusually disadvantaged position and based on second hand evidence!
We have been on a great run of form. With the unpredictable nature of the Championship, stringing together consecutive wins isn’t always easy. Despite our recent upturn, we don’t seem to have made significant progress up the table. We’ve moved up a couple of places and closed the gap to the teams above, but the likes of Barnsley, BristolCityand Peterborough have also seen an improvement.
All things considered, we have to be satisfied as things stand. Let’s not beat around the bush, we are still in a battle to stay in the league, but the newly found confidence and the number of teams in the mix means the odds are in our favour. If we had been marooned at the bottom with three other teams as we were before the festive period, I would have been very worried.
Our summer recruitment caused much of the discontent when we were struggling in the autumn. Players brought in were not performing, whilst last seasons promotion stalwarts were either struggling to come to terms with the step up, or not even in the team. Fast forward a few games. Chris Kirkland seems more settled with a regular defence in front of him. Anthony Gardener has had an injury-free period and that has been a massive boost. He and Miguel Llera have formed a solid partnership at the heart of the defence.
The goals have now started to come. Michail Antonio is rediscovering the form that played a major part in our promotion to the Championship. Leroy Lita has scored two (slightly fortuitous) goals in two games and these have played a part in vital wins. Crucially, it has also got the fans fully behind him from the off, something that our previous loan strikers failed to do.
Earlier in the season the luck never seemed to be in our favour. Danny Pugh looks a solid addition to the team; his flexibility will provide cover in various positions. Jeremy Helan is another versatile player who I was excited to see return. Both these players lessen the impact of Reda Johnson’s ongoing injury concerns. The best thing about his return is the fact that he only wanted to come to Hillsborough despite suspected interest from high flyers Watford.
Finally, full credit to Giles Coke and David Prutton. They both seemed to be surplus to requirements and had spells in the lower leagues, but they’ve come in and played their part in our good run. Whether they will keep their places long term is open for debate, but they’ve done their chances no harm.
All these new and returning faces have certainly helped boost morale amongst the fans and seemingly amongst the playing squad. There is a freshness that has been severely lacking this season. To cap this off,England Under-21 player Connor Wickham will add to our firepower in attack after his loan move from Sunderland. We seem to have some real pace and power in the team. My main concern is that quick strikers might breach our backline, but our defence is not as vulnerable or leaky as in the first part of the season, so we need to keep a little faith.
Wednesday’s aim should now be to finish as high up the table as possible. If we can keep above that relegation dog fight I’ll certainly be happy, and beyond that who knows? Consolidation was always what we needed this season, and we are slowly making the progress to achieve that, despite the bumpy ride.
Up the Owls!
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl