The last week has epitomised the ups and downs of professional football and it has been a real rollercoaster few days.
To qualify for the play offs with a final game to go of the regular season was a great achievement and one that I wasn’t too confident of them doing a couple of months before. They achieved it and I, like many others, was looking forward with optimism to what lay ahead.
Our first task was to go to Huddersfield and make sure that we stayed in the tie. I thought it would always be a cagey affair and was delighted with the 0-0 score line. Of course we didn’t show any of the expansive attacking football that we have had glimpses of this season, but I didn’t expect it. Our ball retention and possession was poor but the game plan looked like it was to stifle Huddersfield and give us a chance back at Hillsborough on Wednesday night. Be compact and tight defensively and if you can pinch a goal it would have been a bonus. So overall, I think the manager and players would have been happy with the result if not necessarily the performance.
Hillsborough was buzzing for the second leg and if I’m honest I was confident that we could see off Huddersfield and book our place at Wembley. What transpired was much of what we have seen this season. We looked hesitant and at times lacking ideas. We played with very little width and didn’t really create many chances throughout the game.
Huddersfield looked confident and comfortable on the ball and by half time I really thought the game was on a knife-edge. When Steven Fletcher scored to put us one up the place went mad and it's at times like that when managers and experienced players have to use their heads. You can’t allow yourself to continue with the goal celebrations, the game goes on and your concentration levels have to be back to where they should be. There’s an old cliché, that goals change games and never was it truer than on Wednesday night. Huddersfield knew that they now had to score so their game plan and attitude would probably change and they would start to take more chances to get back into the game.
I could sit here and pick holes in what happened, you can do that with every game you watch, but it doesn’t change anything. Huddersfield equalised, and deservedly so in my opinion, and by the time the final whistle was blown I felt that Huddersfield had been the better of the two teams, not just on the night but over the two legs as well.
The extra time was no different and I thought overall they looked sharper and fitter than us, probably not helped by a few of our players like Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee, coming back from injury not so long ago. Extra time is all about digging deep and yet still trying to force the issue to try and score that all important goal. Inevitably it ended up with the lottery of penalties to decide the tie.
Now, since Wednesday much has been said about who did and who didn’t step up to take a penalty. Penalties, and especially penalty shoot-outs are not an enjoyable experience. To step up and take one takes a lot of nerve, it is also poles apart from nearly everything else that you do on the football field. Most actions on a pitch are the result of a split second decision; a player makes hundreds if not thousands of them during a match. A penalty is the complete opposite, you have plenty of time to think and consider your actions and it really is a nerve-wracking experience.
When it comes to the moment you want people who are happy and confident in stepping up to the mark. I’m sure that Carlos and his team will have had a number of players who they had spoken to about taking them, probably practicing them in training and its only then that you will confirm with the players the definite five.
For me the facts are simple, we didn’t have enough to beat Huddersfield. They were the better team over the two legs and I wish them well in their trip to Wembley.
Disappointed? Absolutely gutted if the truth be known. I fancied our chances in the play-offs and I’m sure each and every one of the players and staff will feel the same way. Those players will be hurting right now, more than you can imagine and over the next couple of days, weeks and even months they will reflect on what happened this season. What went wrong, where they think they could have done better, and if they’re not careful it can eat away at you.
That’s why you have to try and reflect on it for a short time and then dust yourself down and go again next season.
What the future holds for Sheffield Wednesday no one knows, football is a very fickle industry but what we do know is that the Championship becomes more difficult every year, with the addition of the three relegated clubs from the Premier League who have massive financial resources. The club has come a hell of a long way in a short space of time and we should not forget that. Mr Chansiri has invested heavily and we have come close on the last two occasions.
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques 21-23 Leigh Street, Sheffield S9 2PR