Sheffield Wednesday: Captain Glenn Loovens calls on Owls to repay fans' faith
For a showpiece fixture billed as the most lucrative one-off match in football, Wednesday will be backed by over 39,000 fans at Wembley.
A spot among England’s elite is up for grabs and a big pay-day awaits either the Owls or Hull City tomorrow.
Should Carlos Carvalhal’s prevail in the all-Yorkshire affair, Wednesday can expect an instant cash boost of at least £170million, according to financial experts at Deloitte. It is an an increase of £40million on the figure estimated for last year owing to the rise in Premier League TV rights.
There will be plenty on the line at the national stadium, but Owls captain Glenn Loovens is optimistic the team will embrace the big stage.
“I am very confident,” said the Dutchman. “I have seen all the players train this week and there was no sign of nervousness or anything.
“Even they trained better and harder than they have been. Everybody looked really sharp and ready to go, which is a good sign going into this game.”
Loovens is adamant the players are firmly focused on the job in hand - and not the huge financial prize at stake.
He said: “I don’t think it (the money) goes through your mind on the day. You are just there to try and win the football match. That’s the only intention that should go through your mind. If you think about everything else it’s too much of a distraction and it’s not good for you.”
It is no secret chairman Dejphon Chansiri is desperate to restore the club to its former glory. Shortly after completing his takeover, the Thai businessman set a two-year timescale on promotion. Wednesday are on course to achieve Chansiri’s objective a year ahead of schedule.
“He doesn’t really speak about money to us but he’s a very good chairman,” said Loovens. “Of course he has come to us and wished us all the best.
“Not that we do it just for him. We like to do it for ourselves and the fans and everyone involved in the club.”
Fresh from eliminating Brighton and Hove Albion in the semi-finals, Wednesday will fancy their chances of defeating an inconsistent Hull outfit. Loovens reckons it only aids the team’s cause that they will be cheered on by a large following in the capital.
“The fans have been helping us all season, home and away, and especially the last couple of games we played, Cardiff at home and Brighton home and away,” he said.
“The atmosphere has been amazing and I expect they are going to step it up a notch on Saturday. I think we are in for a treat.”
The centre-back added: “It would be massive for everyone, not only for the players but everyone involved who works hard behind the scenes and the fans as well, who have been longing for it for a long time.
“There is a very good vibe and atmosphere around the club and I think it’s a good time to reward everyone.”
Loovens, a member of the Cardiff City side who lost in the FA Cup final eight years ago, believes Wednesday possess the firepower to trouble their Yorkshire rivals.
“Hull have a very experienced team,” he conceded. “We expect they will turn up on the day. It won’t be an easy game so we have to make sure we play our style of football to come out on top.
“We have to work hard for each other, like we have done all season, and if we play as we are capable of playing and perform well on the day, hopefully it will be enough to seal the win.”
Like many fans and journalists, Loovens admits he knew little about Carvalhal when the Portuguese head coach took over 11 months ago.
“I didn’t; I have to be honest,” he said. “Of course I looked him up. But you have to wait and see how he is going to be. After this season, we can all agree he is the right man for the job.”
The 32-year-old has enjoyed Carvalhal’s managerial style.
“We get on very well,” he said. “He is a very easy manager to talk to.
“And if you have concerns, the door is always open. He is very clear in his approach. He’s the same with everyone.
“Nobody really expected from the last few seasons that we should do so well. But he is a down to earth, normal guy which maybe helps to keep the pressure off.”
Loovens scooped the man of the match award in the second leg of Wednesday’s encounter at Brighton last week. Alongside Tom Lees, the former Celtic player produced a commanding, assured display. His leadership and organisational skills have been vitally important heading into the business end of the campaign.
The Loovens and Lees combination has played a big part in the Owls recording 17 clean sheets during the regular league season. Carvalhal will be counting on the duo to provide them with another solid base when they go head-to-head with Steve Bruce’s side.
“Tom is a very good defender and very easy to play with,” said Loovens. “I have to say when Tom or I weren’t playing, other people stepped in and done a great job.
“Players like [Vincent] Sasso and [Michael] Turner have come in and performed so I don’t think it is fair to praise Tom and me. We have done it as a squad.
“The manager likes to play attacking football but he likes to be organised as well. We train on it a lot.
“Every attack we balance with our defence, so we are not vulnerable at all.”