New pitch, new players, new scoreboard, new manager and new pricing strategy! As we approach the 2015/16 season there is a very different feel to seasons gone by at Sheffield Wednesday. There was a time in the nineties when we regularly broke our transfer record. Whilst that record remains the £4.5 million fee we paid for Mr Di Canio back in 1997 (which included Regi Blinker as part of the deal) we have rarely seen big amounts spent on players this century. The money we have spent is a pittance in comparison to the astronomical fees at the elite level; yet in recent times we have struggled to spend a six figure sum on players. As with most things this has come at a cost and fans have been affected by a hike in ticket prices. This wasn’t lauded in quite the same way as our lavish summer spending.
Hillsborough has needed a facelift for some time. Little has been spent since the European Championships in 1996. Whilst the improvements made so far are significant, there is much more work to be done to bring it in line with the 21st century. When we were unable to spend money on the team why would we spend on the stadium? Now we are spending on both.
Some little known players have made their way to South Yorkshire. Portuguese forward Marco Matias and Spanish midfielder Alex Lopez will be expected to hit the ground running. Both in their mid-twenties; I’m expecting them to be in and around the first team. As with any foreign import, it will be interesting to see if they can adapt to life in England. Defenders Vincent Sasso and Darryl Lachman will be hoping to force the way into a backline that broke records last campaign. The Glenn Loovens and Tom Lees centre back partnership was outstanding last campaign. With Lees signing a much welcomed long term contract amid interest from some of our rivals, injury permitting that partnership will take some shifting. New striker Lucas Joao is billed as a hot prospect, but if he can hit the ground running then maybe the goal droughts we endured last season will be a thing of the past. Experienced Senegalese winger Modou Sougou is also an interesting addition.
We haven’t only brought in players from overseas. Lewis McGugan returns after a successful loan spell last year and his ability will be a key asset for the team. Fans of his previous clubs say he has a tendency to drop off after making an initial impact. Given the right role in the team I believe he will be the driving force if we are to have successful campaign. Ross Wallace’s arrival from Burnley looks pretty astute. We have lacked quality in the wide positions, particularly since the departure of Michail Antonio. Along with Sougou we will hopefully see a much better supply provided for our strikers. Jack Hunt looks like an attacking full back and will rival Liam palmer for that spot on the right; and Rhoys Wiggins move from Charlton will offer competition to Jeremy Helan on the other flank.
The thing I find most intriguing is how players who have remained from last season will adapt and whether they will be given a chance. We need players with experience of the league to help the new players settle. Keiren Westwood is certain to keep goal; unless he moves on. Kieran Lee and Jose Semedo might struggle to get a start. Sam Hutchinson’s history of injury and suspensions means we can’t rely on him being readily available for selection.
Stevie May could also struggle for an opportunity. He can’t really play the lone striker role and doesn’t have the pace for a wide position. Sadly he may be one of the unfortunate victims and a return north of the border could well be on the horizon. Atdhe Nuhiu is also in the last chance saloon. I reckon he will start the season and if he gets a decent level of service and fails to produce the goals then he will lose his place. If he can come up with the goods then we will have a top striker on our hands. My tip to have a good season is Caolan Lavery. He’s come on tremendously over the last few seasons. He has the attributes to be a success at this level and the improved ability in the squad can only help him further. Another one to watch is Filipe Melo. After a slow start he started to impress me and I’m hoping for big things from this member of our Portuguese contingent. With a new manager, it’s hard to predict which players he will favour and the team news from the Bristol City game will be eagerly anticipated.
There is still a question mark over new Head Coach Carlo Carvalhal’s credentials. He comes across well in interviews and is the man Mr Chansiri has picked to lead on his investment. He is new to English football and has a mixed record at his previous clubs. He could be the first of many managers under our new owner, or he could be a huge success. Personally, I can’t see him being with the club for long. His remit is to produce exciting and attacking football. We would all love to see that, but results will be crucial. The unpredictability of the championship will be a huge test and the cut throat nature of the business could well take another victim.
So the era under Dejphon Chansiri will truly begin. True to his word he has splashed the cash. We are entering the unknown as he has the future of our club under his complete control. Let’s see if he can bring the glory days back to Sheffield. Patience is needed by fans expecting instant success, but exciting attractive football is a must, especially if he wants to fill the stadium at Premier League prices. Hillsborough expects!
Up the Owls!
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl