Sheffield Wednesday: '˜It's nice to have proven the doubters wrong'
When times are tough, the best teams stick together.
Wednesday have been under far greater scrutiny and pressure this year, having gone so close to promotion in 2016.
At times, it has appeared Carlos Carvalhal’s players have struggled to cope with the weight of expectation. Some of their displays have not been up to scratch.
Concerns over their promotion credentials grew after Reading’s smash-and-grab victory at Hillsborough in mid-March. Wednesday battered the Royals in the final quarter of the contest but Ali Al Habsi produced an inspired goalkeeping performance, pulling off a series of outstanding saves to keep the hosts at bay. Had Fulham beaten Wolverhampton Wanderers the following day, the Owls would have dropped out of the play-off positions.
But Wednesday rallied in the face of adversity, picking up 19 points out of a possible 21 in April to confirm a top-six finish with a match to spare.
Attacking full-back Jack Hunt said: “As players you know if you aren’t winning that the fans aren’t going to be happy. It is a fact.
“To be honest, it was scary how many people wrote us off after the Reading game. It is nice to have proved so many people wrong.
“We have such an honest set of lads in the dressing room and what we have done is get the performances right.
“The fans have helped us through games when we have needed them to and we have managed to send them home happy.
“It definitely makes a difference when the fans turn out in their numbers. We need them moving forward because the job is nowhere near done yet and they can play a big part for us.”
The 26-year-old, rested in the final match of the regular season against Fulham, is likely to be restored to the starting line-up when the Owls face Huddersfield Town in the first leg of the play-off semi-final on Sunday. Hunt, a product of the Terriers youth system, is targeting a second promotion via the end-of-season showpiece. He was a key member of the Huddersfield side who gained promotion to the Championship at Sheffield United’s expense five years ago.
“We know how bad we felt after we lost to Hull at Wembley last year,” said Hunt.
“We don’t want that feeling again.”