Six things we learned from Sheffield Wednesday's trip to Wembley
It began with dreams of glory and ended in a teary tale of what might have been, as Sheffield Wednesday lost 1-0 to Hull City in the Play-Off Final at Wembley.
Here are six things we learned about the Owls trip to the national stadium.
Owls fans were simply incredible
Let's start with the positives and even if the players didn't turn up on the day, no-one can level that accusation at the supporters. Wembley was rocking from well before kick off as the traveling hordes from not just Sheffield but far beyond roared their side on. They hugely outnumbered and noisily outsung the Tigers support and there were times throughout the game where the stadium was literally shaking. Owls fans made the atmosphere and they can be proud of that. One note about the Hull City fans; while it's easy to sneer at the swathes of empty seats, this is a fanbase who are being put through the wringer by their club's owners and it seems that many have simply had enough. Opposing fans should sympathise rather than mock. "There but for the grace of God, go I" and all that.
A major muck-up by The Football League
Sticking with a similar theme, you'd have thought that having been organising these things for a fair while that the Football League would be able to sort out ticketing quite easily. In the end, one of their biggest days of the year saw thousands of empty seats put something of a dampener on the occasion. The demand from Wednesday fans was huge and they could have easily taken up the unsold tickets, however, they were sold in random pockets around the stadium. It's understandable that segregation has to be in place, but how difficult it is to sell tickets from the farthest point away and work your way in?
Wednesday players were a major let down
With very few exceptions, Wednesday players simply froze on the big occasion, which is as much of a shame as it is surprising given the experience in the side. Only the excellent Keiren Westwood can come out with any real credit, with a couple of others just managing to fall into the 'They did OK' file. The rest, though, were a huge disappointment, There was no attacking threat, creativity was also non-existent and the defence was nowhere near as solid as it had been for much of the season. Maybe the occasion got to them; maybe Hull City players are just more used to these types of games. You can get away with one or two players having an off-day. You can't do that with seven or eight.
Where was the intensity of the Cardiff and Brighton games?
Wednesday needed to go at Hull City from the very first minute just as they did in the matches that got them to Wembley in the first place. Hull City's somewhat weak mentality, as shown on a number of occasions this season, could have had the Tigers reeling if only the Owls had pressed and harried early on. Yes, Carlos Carvalhal's side were the better team in the opening stages, but they allowed Hull to gain a grip of the game from around midway through the first half and after that they were in control.
Carlos Carvalhal magnanimous in defeat
He probably couldn't have said much else, as the proof was there for all to see, but Carlos Carvalhal retained the grace and humility that has made him so popular in his first season in English football. He has seen all the highs and lows of the game here in one campaign and he'll be ready for the challenge against next year.
Big summer ahead
The defeat showed that this team, as good as they have been, is still lacking in the type of quality that ensures you go up. Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City have better squads and that's why they are in the Premier League next season. Owner Dejphon Chansiri has put his hand in his pocket to take Wednesday up a level to that of outside challengers. There'll need to be something of a clear-out and an influx of players who can make the step to automatic promotion candidates. That won't come cheap.