Sheffield Wednesday: Players face biggest challenge

Mark Robins scores for Wednesday against Scunthorpe in 2004
Mark Robins scores for Wednesday against Scunthorpe in 2004
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Mark Robins has often been described as the man who once saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United career.

It had seemed that with the club in the bottom half of the table, in 1990, and already out of the League Cup, Fergie would be sacked if they lost away to Forest in the FA Cup.

But Robins, later to play for the Owls, came off the bench and scored a winner - and we know what heights Ferguson went on to achieve after that.

Is there a Wednesday player who can do a similar favour for Dave Jones and, if not send the Owls speeding up the Championship table, at least provide a much needed tonic for the manager and the club?

A dismal defeat by Robins’ Huddersfield side inevitably has increased both the speculation and the pressure.

Milan Mandaric’s backing of the manager this week does not mean his job is safe, full stop. The chairman is too wise to be that specific. It has been no surprise to see Jones an odds-on favourite at the bookies to be the next Championship manager to be axed.

If it’s another defeat at Blackpool then no-one, including me, will be surprised if the chairman acts.

Mandaric has gone just about as far as he can in advocating patience and support for the manager. He is trying to be positive and really does not want to have to make a change.

As Jones so rightly said after the Huddersfield game, everyone carries a responsibility, not least the players. When the whistle goes tomorrow, it will be up to them.

I must say that I have seen no signs of them not wanting to play for the manager. The failures against Derby and Huddersfield, for example, were more down to mistakes and a shortage of quality.

The fans have tried to play their part. At matches, there has mostly been strong backing for the team and almost no overt expression of anti-establishment feeling. The mood near the end of last week’s game was more stunned silence than noisy anger.

Players have often said that they believe the squad have the quality to do better.

The acid test of that belief comes tomorrow - if they are right then Jones may yet survive. For them this could be the biggest challenge of the season.