After what has been a difficult few weeks on the pitch, it was great to see some massively positive news coming out of Hillsborough on Tuesday.
There’s no doubting that the announcement of new contracts for Fernando Forestieri and Sam Hutchinson will give everyone associated with Sheffield Wednesday a huge lift - the players, coaching staff and especially the fans.
I can understand why some people would say that Hutchinson signing a new contract was the most important of the two. He’s come into his own and has been invaluable this year.
However, I also think that the new contract for Forestieri puts to bed all the shenanigans at the start of the season with him not travelling to Norwich and the question marks over him leaving.
Forestieri is the kind of player a manager needs to put an arm around.
He’s a confidence player and we’ve seen throughout the season so far that his confidence is not as high as it was last year. Maybe this is just the final piece of the jigsaw for him to have that confidence and that comfort where he will say ‘right, I’m here, I’ve got to now go out and produce what I did last year’.
Anybody involved in football, anybody who knows what it’s like in a dressing room, how players work, the confidence factor in players, anybody would say that his performances this year have been a player who has lacked a bit of self-confidence compared to last year.
What you do mentally, when you are feeling that way is you play safe. I go back to my days when I was playing and my confidence was not at as high as it should or could have been.
When I was playing at Norwich and given the captaincy and a massive amount of responsibility, it suited me and I was like, ‘right, wow, I’m needed and I’m wanted.’ I remember I broke a bone in my back and we had a game and the gaffer pulled me and told me ‘You’ve got to play, there’s nobody at the club who can deal with their centre-forward’. So that instils you with confidence, you’ll go out and run through brick walls.
Every decision you make, you’re that confident you are going to make the right decision, it’s just ‘bang, bang, bang’. When you have an element of doubt or your confidence has taken a bit of a knock, it might just be a millisecond where you doubt yourself; ‘shall I go and head that’ and once you’ve done that you’ve made the wrong decision because the right decision is ‘I need to go an head that’.
With creative players, last year Forestieri got hold of the ball and went at people and asked them questions and did it with pace and as a team we did it with pace. As a team we are now taking the safe option, we are taking no risks. How many times has everyone said this year, we are passing square or passing back, because we are not assertive enough on the front foot and we are not going to ask questions.
When your confidence is lower than it should be and you are a little unsure then you are sometimes saying ‘I’m not going to be the one to give the ball away, I’ll not have my first touch forward, I’ll just go back or inside and we’ll keep it’. That’s when people talk about bravery in football, it’s not all about sticking your head in someone’s boot or a keeper diving at a forward’s feet. You’ve also got bravery in terms of ‘give me the ball, I’m not playing well but I’m going to try and create something’. It’s being brave or confident enough to be the scapegoat if it goes wrong. The villain or the hero. That to me is what I see lacking in the team but probably more so in Forestieri and how he has been this year.
I think the contract changes that. It’s the arm around the shoulder, the chairman, the manager saying ‘we believe in you, we want you, go and do your stuff.’ It might just be the lighting of the blue touch-paper for him, that trigger that over the next couple of games he finds last year’s form.
What it also does is prove that what Carlos Carvalhal has been telling him hasn’t been bluster. Talk is cheap, it can come across as ‘yes, we forgive you’ and then behind closed doors, he might be thinking ‘well, I wonder what they are actually saying about me? Has he forgiven me? Is he just telling me that?’ All these things go on in players’ minds.
They’ve given him a new contract showing that they want him, to me it puts it all to bed and big plaudits must go to the chairman for so doing so, in the transfer window. There was bound to be, in the next couple of weeks, chatter about Wednesday players. As the window closes people get desperate, all of a sudden there are names thrown all over the place and this brings an end to it all.
On the back of what I just said about the confidence and taking the safer option, I think the Middlesbrough match on Sunday epitomised the last five or six games - taking out the Newcastle match. If you are being ultra-positive, if you look at the fixtures over the past few months, if we are going to take a thumping in, which would you prefer? I’m sure it would be the cup.
It showed there is a gulf there. I thought last year Middlesbrough were better than us, that’s why they went up, they were a better outfit but it showed how much further they have moved on. The gulf seemed to be greater on Sunday than in the games last year.
Taking a safer option has a knock on effect to the creativity of the team. The concern over the past couple of months is that when we do keep possession in our half we are not creating chances and that was the case on Sunday. We had two shots on target, how can you win a cup tie, like that?
At Newcastle we contained them, they came at us and we contained them, hit them on the break. Unless you are going to do that you are on a hiding to nothing.
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques
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