Alan Biggs at Large: Owls legend David Hirst backing Carlos' men for Wembley play-off glory
CAN they do it? Of course they 'can' '“ that's the easy way round the big question. Anyone can - on the day.
WILL they do it? Now that’s different.
Truth is you’d be brave or stupid, or both, to answer with brazen certainty because Sheffield Wednesday v Hull City in the Championship play-off final is best filed under “too close to call.”
But this column has found one person prepared to stick his neck out further than most.
“I think Wednesday will win,” says David Hirst.
“I would say that, I suppose - but I genuinely believe it.”
Make that two.
For what it’s worth, I’ve had a feeling for months that this is Wednesday’s year and see no reason to change that view 48 hours from Wembley.
Gut feeling sometimes outweighs logic. Then again, nothing in the nature of the teams, current form and the match-up of the players persuades me otherwise.
Owls legend Hirst came to a similar conclusion when we spoke this week.
As one who was centre stage the last time Wednesday were at Wembley – the replayed FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal in 1993 – he believes the venue itself could be significant.
To understand why you have first to consider the tie in more neutral terms and accept it’s absolutely in the balance, if not the lap of the gods.
“They are both good teams and this will be a hard-fought battle,” Hirst reckons, along with almost everyone.
“Both the league games ended in draws – both sides played well in the first leg of their semi-finals and relatively poorly in the second.
“But this is completely different to anything that’s gone before.
“You can never tell how people will react. It’s about who turns up on the day.”
Here Hull may have the edge in big match experience and the number of individuals who have played higher whereas, as David points out, “most of Wednesday’s team will be facing the biggest match of their careers.”
But, assuming they respond individually and as a team (in which department they seem to form a closer-knit unit than Hull), Hirst reckons Carlos Carvalhal’s men have something else going for them.
He insists: “I think Wednesday are the better footballing team and Wembley will suit them for that reason.
“I also believe that, in Fernando Forestieri, they have the biggest match-winner. But there are others. Ross Wallace and Barry Bannan can be influential as individuals as well - and Gary Hooper can win any game on his day.”
These have also been the four names on the lips of Hull boss Steve Bruce, who carries the greater weight of expectation.
But you can add the goalkeeper to that list, too.
Keiren Westwood has an aura of supreme confidence about him. He was immense during the second leg bombardment by Brighton, as were centre backs Glenn Loovens and Tom Lees, and you’d expect no less at Wembley.
And that’s before we factor in the possibility of a penalty shoot-out - with Hull’s first-choice keeper Allan McGregor doubtful.
So many positives, no room for negatives. Yet there is one that may be of some psychological benefit.
It will have been a good season for Wednesday, with much to look forward to, whatever happens. Could Hull and their supporters (just 26,000 tickets sold compared to the Owls’ near-39,000) say the same?