Alan Biggs at Large: Sheffield Wednesday owe their 'truly fantastic' supporters a festive treat over Christmas - and beyond
Regular readers know this column is scathing of any suggestion of Sheffield Wednesday being better off playing away from Hillsborough.
The results don’t back it up anyway. But a big Boxing Day following at Nottingham Forest can help create the sort of atmosphere on which this team should be able to thrive.In fact, the strength of travelling support is perhaps the brightest and most redeeming feature of the Owls season to date. Loyalty seems to know no bounds on the road, as even the number taken to Brentford on December 30 is likely to show.It’s to these fans that Wednesday most owe a much reinvigorated second half of the campaign, not just the sizeable figures attending S6 where the visits of Middlesbrough and Burton Albion, either side of the away double header, are sure to pull in crowds above 25,000 and perhaps considerably more. This for a season that promises little above mid-table unless a sustained run of form follows.Earlier this season (in figures compiled by worldfootball.net) Wednesday were top of the Championship for away support with an average following of 2,105. That is unlikely to have changed since the October survey.The 2,000 travelling allocation for Forest has long been a sell-out; Hillsborough insiders reckon they could have sold at least twice as many. Even the festive visit to Brentford is expected to see a full complement taken south.Perhaps the truest gauge of supporters’ loyalty came in the long-distance live TV games at Ipswich and Norwich, with around 1,500 travelling in each case. Without being patronising or glib, those figures are truly fantastic.From what I hear, the quality of the support has been as commendable as the quantity despite there being relatively little to cheer. As such, these are are the fans most entitled to moan, as all supporters actually are having paid their money to watch.It’s not just a cliche when people say they are the lifeblood of any club and in that sense Wednesday have the strongest possible heart and circulation. Let’s hope the team manages to get pulses racing a little faster in the new year.These levels of support can never be taken for granted, as anyone who has followed the Owls over several decades will know. I recall home crowds as low as 7,000 in the 1970s, for instance. But there is still a huge wave to catch and let’s hope Wednesday maximise their biggest single resource going into 2018.