Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Home form will be pivotal to the Owls' prospects
They say teams who harbour promotion aspirations must be strong in their own backyard.Â For Wednesday, Hillsborough stopped being a ground visiting teams feared to play at last campaign.
The Owls lost eight league matches on their own patch - as many defeats as they suffered in Carlos Carvalhal's two full seasons in charge combined. They particularly struggled against the lesser lights of the division, only beating one of the bottom seven sides.Â
"Our home record wasn't as strong it should have been last season," reigning player of the year Adam Reach told me.
"It let us down early in the season, not just in the derby against Sheffield United, but also against Sunderland and Burton."
Their S6 results let them down and contributed to the club's 15th-placed finish.Â
But the signs are Wednesday are becoming hard to beat in front of their own fans again. Jos Luhukay's men have lost just once of their last nine Championship home fixtures. Not quite a fortress yet but they are heading in the right direction.
Of course, the Owls can't just rely solely on their home form. It is important to pick up points where they can on the road if the team are to stand any chance of challenging for a play-off berth.
"I know our programme but we must also believe in our heads that we are a good team, have quality and that we can make surprises," said Luhukay after Wednesday's battling draw with Stoke City.
As we have seen time and time again in the second-tier, surprises are possible. Virtually every season there is at least one team who defies the odds and punches above their weight. Think Millwall last year. Huddersfield Town the year before that.Â
It just shows you can have all the parachute payments and spending power in the world but it does not guarantee success at this level. The Championship is so tough, competitive and unpredictable that clubs need to be shrewd in the transfer market, appoint the right manager and consistently grind out results.
And we are going to see what this Wednesday side is really made of in the next two weeks or so.
After Saturday's trip to Villa Park, the Owls have back-to-back home matches against league leaders Leeds United and promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion. It is a run of games that looks tricky on paper. Will the Owls rise to the occasion or stumble? They stumbled at Nottingham Forest in midweek.
It is not a period which should frighten them. It is not a period which will make or break their season.
But it is an opportunity to put a marker down. A chance to beat some of the league's big guns and make the rest of the division sit up and take notice. If they can maintain their improved home form, it will bodeÂ well for the future.