Alan Biggs at Large: Hull are strong - but Owls hold the ace for Championship play-off final
When it comes to the better individuals in the Championship, Steve Bruce may have more of them than Carlos Carvalhal. But Carvalhal has THE BEST player.
That’s the summing up of the former boss who sparked off the Sheffield Wednesday revival that reaches Wembley next weekend.
Gary Megson’s lauding of Fernando Forestieri isn’t the only pointer to the Owls’ hopes of edging the Championship play-off final with Hull City.
Don’t Wednesday have the better team as a unit? Witness this week’s semi-final ties in which the Owls withstood an absolute bombardment at Brighton while Hull almost caved in on the 3-0 lead they took from Derby to the home leg at the KC Stadium.
Neither did Wednesday fall apart during the league season - as the Tigers bafflingly threatened to do during the earlier part of the run-in. Crucially, Carvalhal has welded a team with as much steel as style.
But there is a similarity in that both sides, and managers, can mix it; not so much in the physical sense but in variation of approach within one 90 minutes.
That’s why Megson, for all his Wednesday leanings, finds it difficult to call.
And here’s another reason: “I backed Hull to go up before the season started. It may now cost them that they didn’t do so automatically but they have a lot of big name players.
“You can expect those big players, of Premier League quality, to turn up for a big game - and turn it on at Wembley.”
We know the ones Megson means – the likes of Abel Hernandez, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Ahmed Elmohamady. But then Carlvalhal’s big players have turned up on the big occasions as well – and importantly, so has the team.
“And I firmly believe Wednesday have the best player in the division,” Megson tells this column, having once informed the then Watford star’s agent that “if I came back into a job Forestieri would be the first player I’d go for... Wednesday did really well to sign him.”
Beyond that, Megson gives the head coach much credit, adding: “The reason he’s been successful is that he and the team have more than one way of playing.
“Look at the disallowed Forestieri goal in the first leg with Brighton – it came straight from a long kick by the keeper. They can pass to a goal or be direct. There’s the option of going long to Atdhe Nuhiu as well.
And they are good at set pieces.”
Megson credits Bruce and Hull with some of the same attributes. But of one thing he has no doubt: “I think the Premier League will be desperate to have Wednesday back there,” the Ginger One insists.
“The support has been Premier League through all the years. This would be a big club returning to the fold.”
Certainly, the chant that seems to capture the mood, even more than “Carlos has a dream,” is: “We’re on our way back.”