Alex Miller: A season-defining week ahead as pressure simmers on Sheffield Wednesday
10 days is a long time in politics, they almost say. So to in football.
As Garry Monk pointed out after Sheffield Wednesday’s midweek defeat at Rotherham United, everything was looking up for the Owls in the days after his side’s battling 1-0 win at Birmingham.
Having navigated a difficult opening run of fixtures; scalping Cardiff away for the first time since 2007, shutting out much-fancied Watford and cruising through the early rounds of the Carabao Cup with a series of clean sheets, the feeling was that something was building at S6.
The players were together, the midfield three of Izzy Brown, Barry Bannan and Massimo Luongo were firing, the defence holding firm and the transfer window passing with a wave of rightful optimism.
Meet the released ex-Sheffield Wednesday man using Twitter to get his career back on track
Sheffield Wednesday: Unsavoury scenes as George Byers and Jamie Smith clash after Peterborough United substitution
Key man ruled out as Sheffield Wednesday travel to Peterborough United
'Really big' - Sheffield Wednesday's Carabao Cup details revealed as Rochdale's former Owl awaits return
Sheffield Wednesday: Reece James apologised to teammates - will be fined after red card
10 days on? The feeling around Sheffield Wednesday has depressed, with Monk’s approval ratings seemingly having nosedived.
Brentford defeat aside, back-to-back defeats to bottom-half likely lads Luton Town and Rotherham United have sapped growing optimism from a club nervously counting down the opportunities to earn back their 12-point deduction and set about chasing those ahead of them.
The Bees result, a 2-1 home defeat against a side many assume to be title favourites, was one overlooked by the majority. It capped an opening half-dozen games that could be rightly filed as ‘encouraging’. The new-look Owls weren’t far off.
But it’s been the nature of the two following results, the injuries, the suspensions, the lack of control in that South Yorkshire derby, that glances back to the pre-coronavirus Wednesday that snowballed down the division.
That quick-fire, double-barrelled opportunity to pick up points against teams that are expected to end up in the places around them is gone. And in a run of one win in eight, it’s of grave concern to many Wednesday fans.
Monk’s fringe players have let him down this week, of that there is no denying, and stripped of half a team of key players they’ve not had it easy. But even without a points deduction, Sheffield Wednesday would be sat in 18th place, with only plucky Wycombe and spiralling Derby having scored fewer goals than Wednesday’s five in eight.
Monk has asked the fanbase to forget last season’s meltdown and judge his new-look side on this season alone. It’s a request best earned by wins and good performances, you feel, and while it may still be too early to judge this new side with any certainty, the jury is out.
“The next three games will reveal a lot about this group,” he told the media at Rotherham, about how far they’ve come and whether the culture change he diagnosed as the foremost illness in a failing team has been improved upon.
Those three matches, two at home where they haven’t won since February, come ahead of an international break, a matchless fortnight during which moods can be exacerbated for good or for bad.
A week is indeed a long time in football. In a few days time this column could be discussing confident, back-to-back wins over Wycombe and Bournemouth, the ascension into a positive points tally, an overdue win at Hillsborough and the wrestling of Sheffield Wednesday from the foot of the Championship table.
The Owls don’t have the luxury of time this season. Let’s hope that’s somewhere close to the case.