Alan Biggs: The reason why Sheffield Wednesday might one day see this season's injury crisis in a positive light
Strange to say, there may come a time when Sheffield Wednesday are glad of the monstrous injury pile-up of 2017-18.
That time is not now – but some sort of squad shake-up was clearly required.
In the event, Wednesday have had it forced upon them. And not before time, as the tame FA Cup surrender to Swansea again showed.
A constant criticism in this column has been a lack of churn in the senior group; a key contributor to a wretched season. After two promotion attempts with roughly the same personnel it was always going to be tough to recreate a third without freshness. Not because the players had lost their quality but because all the initial newness had worn off and the chemistry was diluted. In short, the team had gone stale.
This is no criticism of some outstanding individuals missing from the side, a huge list of calibre performers. But, as the start of the season with them showed, the collective was no longer working.
Wednesday’s apparent reluctance to trade in the market was catching up with and overtaking the club.
For the immediate imperative of staving off an unthinkable threat to Championship status, the Owls could do with getting a few of the long-term injured back.
But looking beyond that, I wonder if this negative could turn into a huge positive. Wednesday have had little choice but to trust in their academy talent. While Jos Luhukay deserves praise for prioritising it from day one, there was, for me, a danger of the club continuing to drag its feet on turnover without the stimulus provided by drastic circumstances.
But well done to the hierarchy for seizing the moment and securing youngsters on new contracts, possibly stimulated by a realisation of misadventure – by all parties – in the highly unfortunate George Hirst affair that has happily seen him return to the fold, even if that is far from a guarantee of anything more permanent.
Now we can all reel off some names that would have remained largely unknown in other circumstances. Sean Clare has been the biggest revelation, followed by Jordan Thorniley, but look also at the bench for last Saturday’s harsh 4-2 defeat to Aston Villa. Jack Stobbs and Ash Baker were there, awaiting their chance among many more who have been in or around the team under the new boss.
Normally, to get just one through is not bad going in a season, certainly by Wednesday’s unproductive standards across many years. So there is a bright silver lining to the cloud. It has permeated the gloom and lightened the atmosphere. The trick, hopefully after a safe position is secured, will be to marry the new guard with the best of the old and not pander to reputations (and old valuations) when it comes to overhauling the squad.