Alex Miller: Sheffield Wednesday purge offers Darren Moore an opportunity his predecessors longed for
Publicly, the word ‘rebuild’ was used by Darren Moore for the first time this week.
And Sheffield Wednesday’s eagerly-awaited ‘retained and released’ list for the 2020/21 season hammers the the fact home that when supporters make that first shuffle into Hillsborough sometime in August, they’ll be doing so in anticipation of a truly fresh, new side.
“There is going to be new faces, there’s a rebuild going on,” Moore said. “And part of that is implementing a football style in terms of what we feel is going to be right to move this football club forward.”
That eagerly-awaited retained list, the release of just about every senior man. Clauses triggered on Sam Hutchinson, Ciaran Brennan and Alex Hunt, a contract offer to Osaze Urhighide. Otherwise, an exodus.
There will quite rightly be tributes to some of the long-serving players who drove the club through two promotion near-misses and the finest times for the club in a generation; for two-time Owls player of the year Keiren Westwood and former captain Tom Lees.
Westwood racked up 199 senior appearances for the club, Lees a whopping 274. Both can surely be pushed into the category of modern Wednesday legend.
Adam Reach arrived as part of one of the final jigsaw pieces to a puzzle that the club hoped would see them bypass the playoff lottery and push for automatic promotion. That star faded a touch as his Hillsborough career went on, but after 230 tireless Wednesday displays, his too is a Wednesday career that deserves huge respect.
In Joey Pelupessy they have a maligned figure who always gave his all but was ultimately a little limited in his output. 119 appearances for any club is a tally that has to be commended.
Jordan Rhodes? It never quite happened, did it? Signed like Reach as the boost they hoped was needed, his is a regrettable Wednesday story so indelibly linked with over-expenditure and decline – a microcosm for what followed. He spent a season farmed out at Norwich but still made 112 appearances in Wednesday colours.
These are big numbers that players don’t often reach at a single club. And piled on top of last season’s exits of Atdhe Nuhiu (277 appearances), Kieran Lee (217), Fernando Forestieri (134), Steven Fletcher (136) and to a lesser extent Morgan Fox (103), this could fairly be considered something of a purge.
Add to this list Joost van Aken, Kadeem Harris, Elias Kachunga, Moses Odubajo and the others from last season; Sam Winnall et al. The turnover is remarkable.
Garry Monk spoke openly about the need for it, Tony Pulis alluded to it; that things had become stale in that Wednesday changing room.
And it is Darren Moore, in a different division with a different budget, who will get the benefit of a much cleaner slate, of a reduced wage bill and of a fanbase surely more accepting of the notion that whatever comes forth will take a little time.
Football has changed hugely in recent years; it is fast, bold, attack-minded. And whatever the obstacles, a successful squad should reflect those ideals. Sheffield Wednesday squads of late have not.
The rebuild Moore has spoken of starts now at Sheffield Wednesday. It’s one hell of a project.