Sheffield Wednesday: Owls face another close fight

Milan Mandaric and Dave Jones watch the Under 21s at Athersley
Milan Mandaric and Dave Jones watch the Under 21s at Athersley
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Welcome to the first column of the new season, writes Paul Thompson.

When last I wrote, the Owls had just about completed the job of making themselves safe in the Championship.

Then came more an outpouring of relief among fans than a celebration after that terrific goal from Steve Howard and a poacher’s effort from Leroy Lita brought a 2-0 win against Middlesbrough in front of a crowd of 31,375.

More than 3,000 of those supporters will be at Loftus Road tomorrow, hoping that their team can this season improve on 18th place,

It has never been harder to predict how the Owls will fare, in my view.

It seems reasonable to expect that the division will be just as tight as before, maybe even more so.

Wednesday’s finishing total of 58 points put them four points above the relegation zone, but only four below 10th spot. So just two results out of 46 made the difference between going down and lofty respectability.

The Owls would have needed another 10 points to hit the top six.

There is cause for optimism while ever the club have a manager with Dave Jones’ experience.

He is not the first Wednesday boss who has had to try to build a successful side without having the budget enjoyed by many of his rivals. Jones still managed to engineer a haul of 43 points from the last 25 games of last season - promotion form.

Clever and significant use of the loan market was part of the equation. With another month to go before the transfer window closes, much will depend on how this summer’s rebuilding ends up.

One thing that the club can count on once again is great support from the fans.

Talk of a takeover certainly does not mean Milan Mandaric has been winding down his interest in the club.

How many chairmen would, along with his manager, spend a Friday evening watching the Under 21s, as Milan did when he saw the game against Rotherham Sunday League champions AFP at Athersley, Barnsley?

Finally, I am a traditionalist in life and sport, so you wouldn’t have expected me to be a big fan of the new home shirt. But it’s growing on me.