Comment: Kind start gives Sheffield Wednesday a chance to put down a marker
On the face of things, Sheffield Wednesday have been handed a relatively kind start to the 2019/20 Championship season.
Their August fixture schedule sees them take on Reading, Barnsley, Millwall, Luton Town, Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers. Reading, Millwall and QPR flirted with relegation last season, Barnsley and Luton are second-tier new boys and Preston finished in the bottom half.
It looks a favourable run of matches and an opportunity to build momentum and get some points on the board.
But plenty of people said the same 12 months ago after the fixtures were announced and the Owls only picked up two points from their opening three rounds of fixtures. Their form improved after a slow start and Wednesday ended August in 10th position.
The Championship is an unpredictable, unforgiving league and Wednesday boss Steve Bruce, preparing for his first full season in charge, will not take anything for granted as he seeks to turn the team into promotion contenders.
The Owls will kick off their season away to Reading on Saturday, August 3. A trip to Berkshire should hold no fears for Wednesday, who triumphed 2-1 at the Madjeski Stadium last term after goals from Adam Reach and Lucas Joao.
Royals centre-half Liam Moore expects the Owls to provide a stern test.
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“Sheffield Wednesday will be trying to use their momentum from last season, but so will we – especially at home," he said.
"It’ll be all change, they’ll have a different team, with it being their manager’s first transfer window, he’ll be wanting to bring his own players in and his own ideas.
"At the start of the season, it mainly comes down to who has the better pre-season, who’s in good condition, who’s gone through their tactics in a short space of time and putting it all into play as quickly as you can.
"It’s a long season, that’s what the manager’s thought about – he’s shortened pre-season time wise but he’s definitely not cutting any corners. It’ll be very intense - we want to be hitting the ground running in the first game of the season."
The stats don't lie...Wednesday are notoriously slow starters. The Owls have managed just six victories from their last 21 league matches played in August.
A fast start, of course, does not guarantee a team will be in the promotion mix.
But Wednesday can show they mean business next term by coming out of the traps quickly and putting down an early marker.