Alan Biggs: The heartbeat of the team - Barry Bannan has the hunger Garry Monk wants and needs

Barry Bannan is a classic example of that very old and very true saying about familiarity breeding contempt.

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 1:00 pm

We’re talking a minority of detractors here but I CAN understand it.

Five years at a football club, in any capacity, is a hell of a long time these days.

In an environment where judgment shifts from result to result - never mind by the week, month and year - respect for loyalty, once universally admired, is a fragile thing.

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Sheffield Wednesday skipper Barry Bannan was the subject of intersst from Brentfors before the transfer window closed. Pic Steve Ellis

It can shatter like a piece of expensive porcelain if it happens to be alongside the rest of the crockery sliding off a shelf.

That’s how I see the perception at Sheffield Wednesday of Bannan, whose retention in the face of Brentford’s interest was more important than any of the nine - all excellent - window signings.

Where his stock was high in his first two years at the club, chasing the Premier League dream, his standing has been devalued by association with the ensuing three years of struggle.

The 30-year-old midfielder has been very much at the centre of this, of course; almost an ever-present.

When there were repeated calls, not least from this quarter and dating back more than two years, for a stale squad to be shaken up, Bannan was right there in the mix.

Many other senior and equally popular players have left in the inevitable, overdue process of change.

The accent has been on younger players, both in recruitment and promotion from within.

And, of course, there’s a mania for “new players.” There’s an assumption, maybe a wishful thinking, that they have to be better than those already on the books.

Through all this, Bannan remains, a survivor shortly to be offered a well deserved new contract after Brentford’s nibble for his services.

So why? First of all, it’s right there, a club geared to compete again for promotion reckoning Bannan could be the hub for it.

And why do you think he is Wednesday’s captain? Not maybe for overt fist-shaking leadership but certainly for example.

Also a statement from manager Garry Monk that he expected this player to command a place almost automatically. And maybe also a nod to the sort of “best player” logic by which Chris Wilder’s award of the Sheffield United captaincy to Billy Sharp paid off so handsomely.

But there’s surely one more reason, even more significant. Namely that Monk sees in Bannan that enduring hunger he is demanding from members of a reshaped squad.

On ability, there are no question marks, even though Bannan has dipped below his best on occasions.

His critics harp on about him giving the ball away, despite landslide statistics in his favour.

Well, he’s bound to fritter possession occasionally because he’s on the ball more than any other Wednesday player and his responsibility to create always carries an element of risk.

In this regard, Monk is clearly trying to remedy an over-reliance on his skipper.

For the rest, there’s no argument from here that Bannan is still Wednesday’s best player and very much the heartbeat of hopes they can stay in the Championship.

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