Dejphon Chansiri one of many background figures who deserves credit as Sheffield Wednesday eye up another historic record
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It’s all been said before, but this Sheffield Wednesday side is imperious, impressive and over-bearingly efficient. And now, they are record breakers.
To chalk up a clean sheet record unmatched in 156 years of Wednesday’s existence would be impressive in April or May and deserving of headlines and columns and the social media adulation that will come over the next few days.
To do it in mid-February, with 16 matches and 82 days of the season still to go is a frankly remarkable effort that words on screens won’t do justice.
Consider further the fact that, in brutal honesty, Wednesday were at times something of an abomination at the back last season and that alongside injuries it was failings in defence that cost them automatic promotion.
Thought on individual incidents turn up the contrast on an improvement few could have scarcely imagined; from powderpuff calamity in a 3-2 defeat at Oxford United, from a chastening 5-0 hammering at Sunderland – you know what? Even from the 3-3 opening day draw with Portsmouth this very season.
And that comes down to the hard work of many.
Michael Ihiekwe, Ben Heneghan, Mark McGuinness and latterly Aden Flint have shared plaudits for their role in transforming Wednesday from a side susceptible to blind panic at the sight of aerial balls to one that clears danger with repeat and consummate ease; so to their teammates either side.
In goal David Stockdale brought a certain something to the Wednesday defence it had been lacking since Keiren Westwood’s heyday and Cameron Dawson has stepped in to look every bit the high-end EFL goalkeeper he always threatened to be.
Early season criticism aimed at the likes of Marvin Johnson for failing to close out crossing opportunities have been silenced with hard-working, diligent defensive performances out wide helped no end by a savvy midfield three working in close proximity when danger calls.
And there’s no end of effort up top in harrying and closing down and in their own box, Michael Smith, Callum Paterson et al have played a huge role in stamping out such frailty in the face of opposition set pieces.
There has been deserved and well-versed praise for those in dugout; Messrs Moore, Smith, Shan, Basso and Ireland. Hard work on the training ground is a topic often touched on by the former and that pulses from every vein of an improved effort that was only partly enacted by the signing of half a squad more adept at heading footballs and sensing danger.
On that, a firm tip of the cap to David Downes and his recruitment team for that influx; of a monumental role in stealing Ihiekwe and Smith from down the road and all others else. Hands tied in previous windows by circumstances out of their control, their record in more recent times has been a star turn.
Praise also to Dejphon Chansiri, who has accepted his role in tying those hands and putting Wednesday in the division they are in, but who kept his cool in not only ignoring frankly ludicrous calls for Moore’s head after Sunderland play-off heartache, but in backing the club’s resurgence with patience, savvy appointments and no little financial burden.
Owls COO Liam Dooley and his team have pressed the button on initiatives that have brought the fanbase back in tune with the club, a relationship that seemed almost beyond repair not long ago. Couple into that the media team.
And what of the catering staff? The kit team, the groundstaff, people like the late Elaine Murphy, who keep football clubs ticking over without a moment in the spotlight?
It’s cheesy, but ‘team effort’ doesn’t really cover it. That defensive record has been earned not only by defenders and goalkeepers, but by Bangkok businessmen, Sheffield COOs and of course by a Midlands Mourinho who flatly refuses to take too much of the credit he so richly deserves.
More records are on offer and promotion back to the Championship is not even remotely close to being a sure thing. Avoiding the scourge of injuries, perhaps, is the last frontier between the Owls and a League One title few outside Devon would argue is – as things stand – most likely heading their way.
It would be remiss not to mention in dispatches that should Wednesday’s juggernaut break down and finish outside the top two, an autopsy would start at the January transfer window such is the paper-thin squad operating at such a high level.
But enough of that doom-mongering anxiety! The party is raging inside, let’s drink the punch and turn Jeff Beck up to 11.
A club broken at its core a short time ago has been healing and continues to do so.
It’s been a joined-up effort by all involved. An 18-match unbeaten league record and the meanest defence in the club’s long history has been cultivated by a club reborn. Long may that resurrection continue.