Alan Biggs: Carlos Carvalhal's Hillsborough return offers Jos Luhukay a chance to focus on the present - and the future
To the watching world, it's only about whether Carlos Carvalhal can score an FA Cup victory over the club that parted with him.
That’s the extra motivation for Sheffield Wednesday to make it about them. And, with their tails up after beating Derby, to snatch a quarter-final place and eclipse the debate on how a manager discarded by a spluttering Championship outfit has sensationally turned a seemingly doomed Premier League team into likely survivors.
There is no prolonging of that argument here following the column that hopefully addressed it a fortnight ago. If Carvalhal can be a hero in Swansea then what about his replacement, Jos Luhukay, winning hearts and minds in Sheffield? As he did in midweek. And still only one defeat, remember.
It’s a taller order than Carlvalhal’s in some ways, not least because they could not be more different as characters. Without detracting from Carlos’s top flight impact – for which I am delighted for him personally – he had little to lose from taking on the challenge of what seemed a hopeless short-term mission. Luhukay will have seen his as a longer-term one, requiring entrenchment initially and then an overhaul of this squad.
But this is now and a high profile game offers the manager, and not just the club, a big opportunity. I thought Luhukay needed the Derby result to underpin his demanding methods and to counter criticisms that are all too easy to make of his undemonstrative style. So what that he cuts an impassive figure on the touchline? That’s his way. It doesn’t signal a lack of determination; it’s about what his players do. And they did the job on Tuesday, as they have in most of his eight games.
Equally, it’s been important for those players to see signs that Luhukay’s strict approach can and will bring rewards. Such methods can be a hard sell without results to back them up. As can a conservative way of playing, short on entertainment initially, with supporters.
Like many people around Hillsborough, I’m looking forward to seeing Carvalhal - because we liked and respected him. But while the media focus is on the charismatic Carlos, Luhukay and his players need to make it about him and them now. This is a chance to do exactly that at a stroke.