Das Reboot – The good, the bad and the ugly after Sheffield Wednesday’s exceptional turnaround

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It’s never not a rollercoaster at Sheffield Wednesday, and it became clear just weeks after the play-off miracle that 2023/24 would be no different.

In a campaign of high highs, low lows, angry statements, angrier fans, and a whole host of drama, the Owls managed to take things to the final day – against all the odds. They’d been written off months before, but they headed to Wearside with matters in their own hands.

True to form the Championship did what the Championship does and threw up a whole host of crazy results, with seven of the bottom eight winning their respective matches on the final day. Wednesday, thankfully, were one of them and they were left celebrating at The Stadium of Light with Danny Röhl being doused by his players as he tried to do his post-match interview...

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Here’s how another crazy season with one of the countries most bonkers played out, strap yourselves in:

June 19th 2023 – No Moore of that

Exactly three weeks after that 123rd minute winner at Wembley, after those scenes of jubilation that come with beating a local rival, after all of the madness of May, Darren Moore left the club.

His spell at Hillsborough had ended in success, in the most dramatic of circumstances, but he wouldn’t get chance to test himself in the Championship with the players that got them there, and – once again – the Owls were on the lookout for a new manager.

July 4th 2023 – A Spanish Imposition

The fallout from Moore’s exit wasn’t pretty. The reaction from many was a feeling of disbelief, Dejphon Chansiri was under fire, and it left Wednesday in limbo as the start of preseason loomed closer. Players left, and as July began there was a sense that – understandably – the Owls were returning to the Championship just a little under prepared.

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But then the cogs started to turn, and the first step – finding a new manager – was taken. In came Xisco Munoz, a Championship promotion-winner with Watford, and his response to a strangely Carlton Palmer-laden press conference gave room for positivity.

Just over two weeks later, though, on the back of a 4-0 defeat to Eldense as their preseason camp in Spain came to an end, the only signing that Wednesday had made was Reece James – and that was before the new gaffer arrived. Defeats to Doncaster Rovers and Luton Town would follow.

October 3rd 2023 – Hasta la vista

Xisco cut a forlorn figure after a defeat to West Bromwich Albion confirmed Wednesday’s worst ever start to a league campaign, leaving them with just two points out of a possible 30. They were bottom of the table and already looking like dead certs for the drop. A ‘See you at the weekend’ to the Spaniard at the end of his post-match interview was met with a ‘We’ll see’. The following day he was fired.

So Wednesday were on the lookout once again. In a transfer flurry they’d snapped up foreign faces and last-minute loans that would play no further part for the man who signed them, and for many fans it felt like they were consigned to a League One return, even if Xisco’s replacement could start to turn things around.

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October 13th 2023 – Das Reboot

This time around it took just 10 days to have a new man at the helm, largely because said man, Danny Röhl, had come close to getting the job at the same time as Xisco. His first press conference was impressive, assertive, but we’d seen that before. Could he walk the walk?

Two defeats followed, but the signs of improvement were already there in terms of performance levels, and a bigger lift would follow as October came to an end with a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Rotherham United. Boney M’s ‘Daddy Cool’ was belted out from the stands at Hillsborough – it wouldn’t be the last time.

October 31st 2023 - His Majesty's Revenue & Customs

Off the field issues were rearing their head again, with Chansiri confirming in an interview with The Star that an HMRC debt had not been paid, and that players and staff may not be paid that month. It set alarm bells ringing for many, and despite all payments being made shortly afterwards it added fuel to the fire for those opposed to his ownership.

November 29th 2023 – He gets the Owls excited

Defeats to Bristol City, Millwall and Birmingham City – with just one goal scored – put the dampeners on things once again, but throughout it all Röhl was managing to build up a fan relationship with a speed that has scarcely been seen. One win in seven left them very much relegation-bound, but Wednesdayites were backing the process, and they saw that their German was trying to do.

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Then came Leicester City, at the time being touted as the best Championship team of all time, and an early goal from Abdul Fatawu led to fears of a rout. Wednesday weren’t having it, though, and when Jeff Hendrick popped up in stoppage time it felt like there was a shift. They’d probably still go down, but they’d be doing it fighting.

December 16th 2023 – New Year Resolutions

With Wednesday joint bottom on points and eight points off 21st place after defeat to Norwich City, the growing consensus was that while Röhl was going to give them a real chance of survival, it may be too little too late. But when Anthony Musaba popped up in the 94th minute to complete a late turnaround against Queens Park Rangers after Bailey Cadamarteri’s equaliser the deficit became six points, and that felt doable.

A huge win at Preston North End with 10 men in front of a packed out away end would follow shortly after – with Marvin Johnson justifying once again his return from exile – as well as a massive 3-1 win at home to promotion-chasing Hull City on New Year’s Day. They were now three adrift, and a 4-0 battering of Cardiff City in the FA Cup gave hope for 2024.

February 3rd 2024 – Misery business

On the back of that Cardiff win came four defeats in six games across all competitions, 15 goals conceded, and a racism storm involving Coventry City. On the pitch the worst of it came at Huddersfield Town as they were battered by the Terriers and fell back to being eight points adrift.

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The transfer window had been seen as a disappointing one after just four players came through the door – James Beadle, Iké Ugbo, Ian Poveda and Kristian Pedersen – and all four of them featured in that demoralising defeat. Röhl had cut a frustrated figure, and he’d later reveal that meetings took place in the aftermath of that John Smith’s devastation.

February 9th 2024 – Rock and Röhl

Yellow leaflets in the stands with Chansiri’s face on them were held aloft before the game got underway, thousands of them in the most prominent piece of protest to date, but on the pitch the Röhl-volution continued. An Ugbo brace saw the Owls bounce back from conceding eight goals in two games against Huddersfield and Coventry City with a vitally important win over their fellow relegation rivals, Birmingham.

Poveda dazzled, Beadle was on form, and with Ugbo off the mark it felt like maybe January wasn’t as bad as some had feared. A defeat to Leicester followed, but that was expected, and as Wednesday put Millwall, Bristol City, Rotherham United and Plymouth Argyle to the sword they went level with three other teams above them.

By this point Ugbo had seven goals and assists in six games and Poveda had got Wednesdayites on strings, and Di’Shon Bernard (olé, olé) was winning more plaudits with every passing week… They couldn’t, could they?

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April 1st 2024 – April Fools

Fans continued to flick between optimism and pessimism on a daily basis, and after picking up 15 points from 18 after defeat to Huddersfield still couldn’t get them out of the bottom three it did feel like they were due a bit of luck.

They didn’t get it against Leeds United (0-2), certainly didn’t get it against Ipswich Town (6-0), and somehow managed to draw 1-1 with Swansea City despite dominating the game, so when April began with a lacklustre 2-0 defeat away at Middlesbrough the flick switched again. Röhl was fuming, inquests were held, even the most optimistic Owls were edging close to admittance that they weren’t long for this division.

April 6th 2024 – Call an ambulance! But not for me…

Do you know who wasn’t admitting defeat, though? Röhl and his players. They’d bounced back from setbacks before, and were determined to do so again. So when they turned on the style away at relegation rivals, QPR, they once more gave fans reason to believe.

Djeidi Gassama and Anthony Musaba, two virtual unknowns in these parts before the season, got the goals in a 2-0 win, and at the back a solid Akin Famewo continued a steady campaign that saw him end as one of the top three most-used Owls.

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Next up heroes of 2022/23, Michael Ihiekwe and Michael Smith, got on the scoresheet with a dramatic fightback to draw 2-2 with high-flying Norwich City. Will Vaulks, a warrior in the midfield, delivered the corner to set up both. The returning Callum Paterson was the man that lit the fuse. Others may have thought them dead and buried, but in-house they were far from it.

April 21st 2024 – “Yellows, Yellows, Yellows”

The biggest of days, in so many ways. Wednesday knew they could take their Championship fate into their own hands with a victory, 7,300 Owls fans were making the trip, and in the middle of the park Barry Bannan – a bonafide modern day legend – would be turning out for his 400th appearance in the club’s colours. Röhl’s men needed to turn up against Blackburn Rovers, and boy, did they…

Josh Windass got the ball rolling with a worldie of a finish to remind some of his naysayers just how good he can be, Bambo Diaby came into the fold in tough circumstances before going off with a broken nose, and Pol Valentin burst up and down the right side to continue his resurgence as undoubtedly the most improved player of the season. Johnson got the second, Aynsley Pears scored a bizarre own goal, and the Owls would head back over the Snake Pass with a spring in their step. Two more to go, safety in reach - they were finally out of the bottom three.

May 4th 2024 - Crazy like a fool

Wednesday against West Brom, in terms of the table, should’ve been a mismatch, but – as Carlos Corberan said before the game – this was a different Owls side to the one that was beaten without even a whimper in Xisco’s final game.

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Liam Palmer, the longest-serving player in the club, put on another great showing as he went eighth in Wednesday’s all-time appearance makers on 434, Dominic Iorfa put on a masterclass, and Röhl’s men ran out as deserved 3-0 winners. All three attackers scored, and Hillsborough roared. They did their lap of appreciation knowing that a point away would save them.

So it came down to Sunderland. May 4th, Stadium of Light, Championship survival on the line. They only needed a point, but - as the manager had hoped - they got all three. Wednesday spent just 22 days out of the bottom three all season, dropping into in August and only climbing out last month, but none of that matters - not to the fans or the players or the staff. Sheffield Wednesday will be a second tier side again in 2024/25, Palmer and Windass made sure of that, and now the plans for the future begin.