Alex Miller: There's a need for real patience at Sheffield Wednesday, but it's important Darren Moore avoids Garry Monk mistakes
A man on the internet this week said that if you weren’t a fan of Newcastle United, you had ‘no real concept of what true football torture is.’
It was a social media post that drew justified guffaws from observers across the country; from Macclesfield and Luton, Wigan and Portsmouth. From Derby, from Bury. And yes, from supporters of Sheffield Wednesday.
There’ll be no mention here of the time elapsed since the Owls last saw Premier League football or the circumstances that have seen them drop into the third tier for the third time since that point. Those are matters are well combed over.
It’s been said so many times it could fairly be described as sycophantic to say it again; but Wednesday fans have long deserved better.
But what of now? What of their start to the League One season? What of Darren Moore? Patience, in the eyes of this Wednesday writer, is required.
Social media is designed to chuck the more radical opinions to the forefront, but there has been a marked shift in opinion online as their run of one win in six league matches has gone on. The frustration is palpable.
Strains of ‘Darren Moore’s Barmy Army’ have been heard at one time or another on every away terrace this season, while Hillsborough booed at half-time and full-time during the defeat to Oxford United last weekend. After the sunshine of summer, there’s just a hint of that familiar aching feeling creeping in as the leaves begin to fall.
What is unfamiliar though, on the basis of the last few years at least, is the relative sense of calm behind the scenes and the work that has been done to improve the club’s infrastructure.
If there was any question whatsoever of Wednesday’s backing of Moore, the investment in sports science figure Rob Lee this week – the manager’s former colleague at Doncaster Rovers – should silence them. This was never going to be a quick turnaround job and the pieces, it seems, are still falling into place.
Sources close to the Wednesday boss suggest he arrived at the club not realising quite how big the job at hand really was. From the outside, perhaps, it was impossible to.
He has taken it upon himself to fix things far beyond his job description and has led a summer of recruitment that injected the sort of optimism that had several senior players talking of titles. Until that ball bundled its way into Wednesday’s goal at Morecambe, he was top of the league and walking on water in the eyes of Owls fans.
Though Moore prefers to protect them to the hilt, those players - so bullish in their thinking not long ago - need to up their game considerably.
Conversations with those within the club suggest that there is absolutely no doubt that thanks to his work behind the scenes, whoever is the next man into the Hillsborough hotseat – be that in two years or 10 – will find a club better built for success. It’s the sort of work that requires huge respect and piles credit in the bank.
There is no polar argument here. The fact is that Sheffield Wednesday need to improve and Moore has many things to fix.
You wonder whether the ‘horses for courses’ selection policy, built around a need for players to get ‘minutes in their legs’ is one he may want to shed in the coming weeks, preferring to name a more consistent side and edge towards the notion of a ‘best 11’.
What to do with Barry Bannan, for example? His stationing of the little Scot as a winger on Saturday raised more than a few eyebrows and there are obvious questions over whether the Owls boss knows how best to work him into his favoured system.
How to get his side creating more chances? How to stamp out the individual errors that have cost them so dearly? How to get them playing with the sort of ‘front foot’ identity he spoke about over the summer?
They’re a handful of the many questions, 10 league matches in, that Moore is yet to nail down. Time is still very much on his side, but the answers need to start dropping in sooner rather than later.
A large part of what cost the last manager to embark on a transition at Sheffield Wednesday, Garry Monk, was a confusion over his methods, a constant chopping and changing of line-ups that at one point saw Fernando Forestieri play at left wing-back.
As things took a downturn and players continued to underperform he started to drown, falling into tired soundbites at media calls that only served to confuse his message and frustrate supporters.
In other circumstances it may well have worked out for Monk, but nothing quite settled down in a way that left onlookers able to describe what a Wednesday win looked like. That’s an ideal Moore and his players need to work towards.
When Darren Moore was appointed as Sheffield Wednesday manager it was almost universally agreed it was a sensible and forward-thinking appointment, but one that would require great patience as the club embarked on its biggest on-and-off field transition in living memory.
Asking Wednesday supporters for unconditional patience when it comes to success is an unfair request; two decades of hurt gives them a better claim of ‘football torture’ than most.
The job of Moore and his players is to prove this blip is exactly that, and that while the work behind the scenes continues, the team is capable of a top-six finish this season.
How they do that is over to them.