Alan Biggs: More to come from Sheffield Wednesday on the pitch and in the market
Sheffield Wednesday is a rollercoaster of mood swings right now.
From the low of last weekend to almost giddy high again courtesy of new deals for Fernando Forestieri and Sam Hutchinson, the imminent return of Gary Hooper and the prospect of doubling up on the club’s two window signings.
Behind it all, as highlighted here last week, is a highly committed owner, unwavering whether met by gloom or glee (there’s very little in between).
Which leads me to believe that all the names you read about WILL be on Wednesday’s radar, besides you-know-who.
Any Championship club with resources is bound to eye Barnsley duo Sam Winnall and Conor Hourihane, an 11 goal striker and five-goal midfielder, both 25 and approaching their peak.
I’d be more surprised if the Owls weren’t weighing up bids; ditto Danny Ward, in double figures with rock bottom Rotherham. All players who’ve looked good against Wednesday at various times; managers always note opposition stand-outs.
As for the here and now, many argue it’s a good sign if a team keeps ticking along without playing well. Well, yes – but only up to a point. Take the Owls, one defeat in nine games in the Championship when playing largely below their best.
Allowing that injuries to key players have cramped the team, you have to go on and actually play well to profit in the long term. Keep under-performing and you get found out.
Wednesday have had some good breaks lately, certainly against Rotherham, Preston and Wolves. Turn that five points into one, two or three and things would look quite different.
Why I’m still confident in the Owls nailing down a play-off spot is that they have so much capacity to improve and, in Carlos Carvalhal, a calm, unflustered head coach who never overreacts for good or bad, and always takes the long view.
Carvalhal also knows he has certain players with key contributions to make in the coming four months. But not just the big players.
From what I’ve seen and based on the standards previously set, I think there’s scope for improvement in every player – with the possible exceptions of Hutchinson and keeper Keiren Westwood, both outstanding.
It’s not only Forestieri who, for various reasons, has dipped below expectations. Or Barry Bannan, or Ross Wallace, or any of the mainstays of last season. Individually and collectively, the Owls have not been as good or as fluent this time.
There are reasons for that, not least the clued-up opponents, particularly at Hillsborough where Wednesday need to make inroads much earlier.
What matters is how they react to the demands, starting with two huge games – at home to Huddersfield on Saturday and at Brighton next Friday. And the players know full well their capabilities, as evidenced by the Boxing Day win at Newcastle.
I found myself nodding to former Owl Leigh Bromby when he told me: “Some of the players are on big contracts but you need to invest that money if you want to go up. The league is really tough this season, stronger than last.
“Wednesday may not have hit the ground running but with the quality of player they have, they WILL start performing.
“If they can stay in or around it, they’ve got the players who can come to the fore at the right time.”