Alan Biggs: Sheffield Wednesday can still turn season from '˜fine' to '˜fair'
For maybe two seconds last Saturday the bad old days were back. Hillsborough rumbled with discontent at full-time.
Then it was as if somebody coughed – and the silence that followed was telling.
By “bad old days” I’m not referring to the performance in defeat to Ipswich, though it was distinctly boo-able and supporters were fully entitled to vent their frustration.
No, it was more what the reaction suggested and the signal it seemed to send. It was as though those who booed – it’s usually a minority and it surely was – had abandoned the “we’re on our way back” bandwagon of recent times.
Maybe that, too, had been sung by a good few of the same minority?
But the reason the quickly ensuing silence was telling was perhaps that those booing had a sudden realisation of the negative vibe they were creating.
There was an apology in there somewhere.
Certainly, the social media outcry that followed an admittedly sterile display was way off the scale.
Now that the barometer is swinging back, there is a realisation that the outlook is “fair” if not exactly “fine.”
Consecutive defeats have set Wednesday back, no question.
An uncharacteristic tendency to concede soft goals allied to a recurring lack of penetration at the other end is threatening to put the top two out of sight, even if the gap to sixth is only two points.
But let’s remember that, by common consent, the expectation of the Owls in this increasingly competitive league was of the play-offs rather than automatic promotion.
Now to what’s going wrong. And it surely is. At the moment. Frankly, a pleasing passing game has become pedestrian and predictable. Teams have wised up to giving Wednesday the ball and letting them pass into a cul-de-sac.
What stands out for me is the absence of players in the area when moves are being constructed. The ball cannot go in early enough because it seems everyone, other than Steven Fletcher, wants to be a link player.
Then there’s the absence of width with Barry Bannan puzzlingly being played out of position on the right.
And what happened to the Plan B of going direct, albeit that Atdhe Nuhiu’s illness hasn’t helped?
Is the burgeoning talent of teenager George Hirst worth a go from the bench?
Former skipper Jon Newsome suggested on Twitter: “More urgency, hit CF (centre forward) earlier, mix it up, in behind at times. Wide men, stay wide, good deliveries into box. . . what we don’t like against us.”
Again, I think Wednesday have the players and the manager for the job. Carlos Carvalhal is an innovative coach who has earned some latitude and trust.
The Owls also have the support to succeed – and I think that’s what even those booing quickly realised last weekend.