Steel City derby is an opportunity for under-performing Owls stars to make amends - Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column
Miracles do happen occasionally in football.
Remember when Greece won the 2004 European Championship? Remember when Liverpool battled back from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties in the Champions League Final? Remember when Leicester City defied all odds to lift the Premier League title less than two years ago?
Sometimes the underdogs rise, and the mighty fall.
Nonetheless, it is going to take a staggering and remarkable turn of events for the Owls to secure a top-six Championship finish this season.
You can’t fault chairman Dejphon Chansiri’s ambition. In recent years, the Wednesday chief has invested heavily in the playing squad, spending tens of millions on assembling a squad packed full of experience and pedigree at this level.
After unveiling new manager Jos Luhukay to the media on Monday, Chansiri set the Dutchman the target of leading the Owls back to the promised land as soon as possible.
But, to put it mildly, a late promotion charge looks completely unrealistic. Wednesday have won just seven of their 26 league matches so far, are 13 points shy of the play-off placings and boast a crippling injury list.
Chansiri said: “We have another 20 games. There are still enough points to be there (top-six) if we have a little bit of luck and maybe a miracle.”
Of course, you do get one team, every now and then, who go on a superb run in the second half of a season who sneak into the top six. It has happened before and will happen again.
I just think the Owls need to focus on one thing, and one thing only, and that is getting to the 50 points mark as fast as they can. They can then take stock and reassess their situation.
Luhukay couldn’t have asked for a tougher start to his reign than a trip to Sheffield United. Few people are expecting Luhukay to work wonders. He had had less than a week to work with the players on the training ground and is without a string of key players through injury.
United go into the derby as clear favourites but Luhukay’s arrival adds an extra layer of intrigue and brings an element of mystery. No one is quite sure how Wednesday will approach it.
Will the Owls start on the front foot or look to sit back and stifle United? Will Luhukay go with his preferred 4-2-3-1 system or switch to three at the back, a change a large number of Wednesdayites had called for when Carlos Carvalhal was in charge? Will Lucas Joao, Atdhe Nuhiu or Jordan Rhodes spearhead the attack?
Three points at Bramall Lane would be the perfect start to a new era at Hillsborough. Hopefully Luhukay will get a response from the players, who should be looking to impress and prove a point after their 4-2 thumping when the two teams last collided in September. It is the players chance to make amends and write their names in Sheffield football folklore.