Column: Big-game players should thrive on Play-Off pressure

Alex Lopez
Alex Lopez
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When I glance through Wednesday’s squad, there is one thing which really stands out for me.

It is not the sheer size of it. Carlos Carvalhal has fielded 30 players this season.

It is not even how diverse the group is. By my calculations, there are 12 different nationalities.

What is really striking is that this Owls side is littered with footballers who have competed at the highest level.

Keiren Westwood, Michael Turner, Joe Bennett, Sam Hutchinson, Ross Wallace, Barry Bannan and Gary Hooper have all sampled Premier League football. (Apologies if I have missed anyone out)

Club captain Glenn Loovens represented Celtic in the Champions League.

Alex Lopez has plied his trade in the top division in Spain. So too has Modou Sougou in France.

Westwood, Bannan, Pudil and Lucas Joao have all been capped by their countries this campaign. It has been a long time since Wednesday have had that many internationals on their books.

Fernando Forestieri, Pudil, Turner, Wallace, Bannan and Hooper know from personal experience what it takes to get out of the second-tier. You can’t buy that nous and knowledge.

The point I’m getting at is that Wednesday’s recruitment drive has been shrewd and well thought out. It is no fluke the team the Owls’ hierarchy have assembled. They have got players who are used to pressure situations and enviroments. They have proven performers who are unlikely to freeze on the big stage which all bodes well for the first leg of their Play-Off Semi-Final with Brighton tonight.

The bookmakers and numerous pundits have written off Wednesday’s chances of reaching Wembley and winning the knockout format. Being the underdogs doesn’t bother Carvalhal in the slightest. Nothing will probably please the affable Portuguese chief more than coming in under the radar.

As we have seen in the past, anything is possible in these mini-tournaments and Wednesday have a 100 per cent success rate in the Play-Offs. The class of 2005 booked their place in Owls folklore by beating Hartlepool United at the Millennium Stadium and I, for one, certainly wouldn’t back against Carvalhal’s side following in their footsteps this year.