Skipper predicts bright future for Owls defender
Joost van Aken is ready to kick on after fully adapting to the rigours of Championship football.
That is the view of Owls captain Glenn Loovens as Carlos Carvalhal’s men prepare to entertain struggling Hull City today.
Van Aken has endured a mixed start to his Wednesday career. The tall defender made seven successive starts after arriving from Heerenveen in a deal which could be worth £4m.
But van Aken then lost his place in the team following Loovens’ return to action, with boss Carvalhal opting for experience at centre-back.
Van Aken filled in for the suspended Loovens at home to Barnsley but Tom Lees and Loovens have been Carvalhal’s preferred partnership in recent weeks.
However, Lees’ groin injury handed van Aken an opportunity to shine and the former Holland Under-21 international put in a solid display at Reading last weekend. With Lees unavailable for selection once again today, van Aken is set to play alongside his fellow countryman Loovens for the second match running.
Loovens said: “He looked more confident and calm in the last game. He’s very good on the ball and it takes time to adapt. I think he’s done that and I think he is ready to push on now.”
Loovens, previously of Cardiff City and Celtic, insists it is not always easy for a player to settle in to a new club.
“There is a period of adjustment,” stressed Loovens. “I was probably at a similar age (to van Aken0 when I made the move, maybe a bit younger than him, so I know what he’s going through on the football and personal side.
“You’re abroad alone, no family. It takes a bit of time to get adapted. But he’s a bright kid and a good footballer so those are the attributes you need to make it successful. He’s steady enough in his head to make it work. I think for him it’s time to push on now.”
Loovens was happy with how he and van Aken performed together at Reading.
“I thought it went well,” he said. “He’s a good player on the ball.
“He needs a bit of coaching sometimes defensively but he’s still young and learning and I can see the progress he’s making every week. I think he will be a player people are going to enjoy here a lot.”
While Loovens recognises Lees’ injury woe is a “blow” to the team, he is confident van Aken and Frederico Venancio, who is still waiting to make his first appearance, can step into the breach.
“It is a blow (not having Tom), of course,” he said. “We know he’s a very good defender. He’s very reliable.
“But it’s another opportunity for other people to step up and make sure that they can do the job as well. We have two other capable centre-halves to fill in, no problem.”
Clean sheets have largely been hard to come by for Wednesday this season. They have recorded just four shuts outs in 19 attempts.
Loovens acknowledged it was “important” for the team’s morale to keep a clean sheet last weekend.
“We all know that we have had some changes in defence,” he said. “We have had a few people injured and a few new people coming in. It takes a bit of time to get things right.
“I think in the last couple of games we have shown, not only in defence, that we are working more as a unit in midfield and the strikers are doing their part, which is important to us defenders. It makes our job easier.”
Today’s meeting will be the first time the two clubs have collided since the 2016 Championship Play-Off Final, which Hull won 1-0 with a goal from Mohamed Diame.
Loovens, who led the Owls at Wembley, said: “I’m not a player who likes to look too much at the past. I think the future is more important.
“It has been nearly two years now. Their team is totally different and we have made a few changes. It will be a different game.
“We have to make sure we win this game on Saturday.”
The Tigers have struggled since suffering relegation, winning just two of their last 14 Championship matches. They are currently 20th, four points above the relegation zone.
“It is never easy when you come down to get going again,” said Loovens. “We have seen other teams going through the same patches but they are still a good team and we have to make sure we do well.
“There are no easy games in this league.”