WHETHER they like it or not, Sheffield Wednesday are destined to be in the hat for the second round of the FA Cup.
That’s because the draw will take place before the Owls’ tie at Morecambe gets underway at 3.15pm on Sunday. Ball number five is the one to keep an eye on.
There are two ways of viewing the FA Cup from Wednesday’s perspective; a welcome distraction from the gruelling League One programme or an extra competition they could do without. My hunch is the latter.
I reckon if you offered Gary Megson three points at Tranmere Rovers a week on Saturday in exchange for going out of the cup he would take it.
As far as Megson is concerned, he would probably accept any result other than a draw. The last thing the club wants or needs is a replay. Megson will want the tie done and dusted in 90 minutes.
The reality is Sheffield Wednesday are not going to lift the FA Cup at Wembley next year. In truth, they will do well to match last season’s efforts of reaching the last 16.
As footballer-turned pundit Chris Waddle acknowledged: “The FA Cup is still a well regarded trophy and it is very rare you see a small or unfashionable club winning it.
“Apart from Portsmouth, it has been the big clubs who have won the tournament over the last few years. The big sides make changes for the FA Cup but they still bring in international players.
“I think a few years ago when Manchester United pulled out of the competition it was getting devalued but I don’t think people do now. It is still a tournament teams want to win. Clubs do take it seriously as they see it as a way into Europe.
“It is a great day out at Wembley. The fans love it. You never see an empty cup final.”
The danger of a good cup run is it can lead to a team taking their eye off the ball in the league. This is something Wednesday can relate to. It is easy to forget but they were briefly sucked into a relegation battle last term before Megson steadied the ship and steered them to safety.
The fact is Wednesday have bigger fish to fry. The league is what matters. The objective is to go up and it is Megson and his backroom’s staff duty to deliver a top-six finish. Anything less would be deemed as a failure.
For that reason, expect there to be alterations at the Globe Arena. Stoke City have blocked Ben Marshall from featuring in the tie, meaning Jermaine Johnson is in pole position to get the nod out wide. On his day, Johnson is a match-winner and can be unplayable but consistency is his problem.
He has the pace and trickery to frighten defenders. Unfortunately, the Jamaican international struggles to maintain his form and fitness over a sustained period. Bearing in mind the scintillating performances Marshall has produced since arriving at Hillsborough, it is imperative Johnson, if he starts, makes an impact.
Marshall will be sorely missed but Wednesday ought to have the quality in their ranks to cope without the talented youngster. On the bright side, the extra week off should mean the wing starlet is nice and fresh for the festive schedule.