Alex Miller: Would Chris Hughton have succeeded at Sheffield Wednesday? It's all a matter of timing..
We’re geniuses, us the football public. All of us. And when that snowball of public opinion grows and grows, well..
It’s so simple. Club needs manager or player in problem position; easy-fit manager or player is available. Make it happen and see all problems solved.
Except it seldom works that way, really. And for all the collective knowledge of the football public, nothing in this world is a sure thing.
In the summer of 2019, as the dust was settling on Steve Bruce’s drawn-out departure to Newcastle United – one that has gone largely as everyone expected it to, ironically – the eyes of many a Sheffield Wednesday fan fell on one name in particular on the bookies’ long, long list of potential replacements.
Chris Hughton, with his three Championship promotions on a CV, with his calm demeanour and reputation sky-high following what seemed to be a harsh sacking by Brighton & Hove Albion, was the obvious choice. Get him in and watch the Owls fly.
No, he said. He was waiting for a Premier League opportunity.
The Cowley brothers were the next flavour of the month following their fine work at Lincoln – another simple solution. A meeting, some madness. They too said no.
So Wednesday landed Garry Monk and within a few months were within touching distance of the automatic promotion spots. A Boxing Day outing at Stoke City massacred their momentum and by the end of the season the Owls looked like relegation candidates.
Less than a year on that candidacy followed through and they became a League One club.
Would the recent past of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club have been different had ‘safe hands Hughton’ accepted the Wednesday job? It’s one possibly best answered by Nottingham Forest supporters that have just seen him sacked after less than a year at the helm.
The Cowleys? Huddersfield Town saw fit to get rid after less than that.
There didn’t seem to be many Wednesday fans that wouldn’t have had Paul Cook installed last season. Should Ipswich’s start to the season continue, who knows how long their new owners might keep their fingers off the trigger?
All are fine football managers – this column seeks not to suggest otherwise – and are hugely respected, but idea of guaranteed success is fanciful in this day and age, especially in football.
Perhaps what is more important to the success is a sense of opportunity and the chance for a manager to rebuild a squad in his image. Perhaps it’s all about timing.
Even after back-to-back defeats that have had the most reactionary Wednesday fans reaching for the panic button, few would disagree that Darren Moore’s work in turning the sinking tanker that was Sheffield Wednesday around in just a few weeks has been nothing short of remarkable.
Where it all ends up, of course, is a glorious mystery.
But what Monk wouldn’t have done for the chance to clear the decks and start again. Was that, perhaps, the gig on the horizon Pulis was peeking towards before his shortest of short Wednesday tenures came crashing down?
After all, it wasn’t going to be pretty, but the Welshman was definitely going to keep Wednesday in the second tier, wasn’t he?
Football isn’t paint-by-numbers.