The fabled words belong to an old king of Scotland: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.” I think that’s a fair summary of Sheffield Wednesday’s approach this summer.
Ok, Wednesday should have done far better this season. But, across the three years of this regime, there is no shame in that. As another saying goes: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
Crucially, there is no contemplation of taking a step back. The goal remains the same; the method of approach out of necessity slightly different.
Robert the Bruce’s battlecry atop this column fits the mood quite nicely after two play-off attempts and a third year dip. With a core of good, experienced players in a squad that has to be trimmed, Wednesday are also applying the word “trim” to mean younger and more athletic, less prone to injury perhaps. A target area of younger players taking a step down to go up – from the Premier League on loan – or taking a step up in terms of the EFL seems a sensible way round Financial Fair Play restrictions.
Jos Luhukay is at the heart of it, having blooded half a dozen young players from a now thriving academy. Throw in the previous development of young keepers Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson, plus Liam Palmer, albeit now struggling to hold down a senior place, and the Owls are suddenly in double figures on the home produced front.
ll will make a sustained impact and it’ll be a real blow if the Owls lose Sean Clare as well as George Hirst.
But academy coach and ex-keeper Nicky Weaver appreciates Luhukay kick-starting the process. “It’s great for the Under 18s and 23s that they can see the manager taking a real interest,” Weaver told me. “He sees them on a daily basis and really wants to promote youth within the first team.”
Maintaining such a policy next season will take more nerve than in this one, as a campaign in which Luhukay will be judged. But Weaver sees an unflinching character in that respect – a man who, for instance, doesn’t buy into touchline animation just for show.
Weaver, himself a more extrovert character, offers this for perspective: “He’s very calm, doesn’t fluster. His first game was at Bramall Lane, a very hostile atmosphere, the game was on the edge and he stayed very calm. Which I think is a good thing.
“If he’s getting flustered on the touchline then I think players can lose their heads a little bit.”
I have to agree that the body language of managers is an irrelevance. “There’s no right or wrong way,” Weaver added. “It’s your way. It’s just that if you’re losing you’re going to get criticised in this day and age. When Sven Goran Eriksson took over as England manager he was very calm and we had great success under him initially. People show passion in different ways.”
Luhukay is clearly someone who prefers to see expression on the pitch – where it should be.