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Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Eight reasons why Owls fans should be optimistic ahead of the new season

Wednesday defender Tom Lees
Wednesday defender Tom Lees
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Given Wednesday have entered a transitional period, it is understandable why some supporters are pessimistic about the team's prospects for this season.

No new faces have arrived amid unconfirmed reports of a transfer embargo.

But it is not all doom and gloom for the Owls. There are reasons for genuine optimism.

Here are eight reasons for Wednesdayites to be positive ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.

Thorough preparation

Pre-season has not been a summer jolly for the Owls' squad. Boss Jos Luhukay, regarded as a tough taskmaster, has worked the players hard on the training ground and instilled a strong work ethic in the group. There has been a mix of football (work) and running so expect the team to be fitter and more energetic this season.

Wednesday's squad put through their paces in pre-season training.

Wednesday's squad put through their paces in pre-season training.

Midfielder turned wing back George Boyd said: "We are aiming to be one of the fittest teams in the league.”

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Few Injuries

There is surely no way Wednesday can pick up the same number of injuries as they did last season. Luhukay was without 16 players at one point.

Fernando Forestieri has been in good form in pre-season.

Fernando Forestieri has been in good form in pre-season.

But their top stars, who have missed huge parts of the last two seasons, including Tom Lees, Barry Bannan and Fernando Forestieri, are fit and raring to go. With Gary Hooper and Kieran Lee also on the comeback trail, it will not be long before Luhukay has the luxury of a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Fernando Forestieri

He is absolutely box office and the Owls' main man. Forestieri is unpredictable and gives Wednesday's attack an extra dimension. A man capable of providing a moment of inspiration and swinging a tight match in the Owls' favour. If the team are to mount a promotion challenge, Luhukay must build the team around Forestieri.

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Jos Luhukay is preparing for his first full season as Owls manager.

Jos Luhukay is preparing for his first full season as Owls manager.

The big players are still at S6

Jack Hunt and Jordan Rhodes have moved on but Luhukay still has the nucleus of a strong team. There is still plenty of class in the team. I'm sure there are many Championship managers who would be happy to have Forestieri, Bannan, Lees, Adam Reach, Sam Hutchinson, Lucas Joao and Keiren Westwood in their side. There are not many departments of the squad where they look short on numbers.

Experience

Wherever you look in the Owls side, they are blessed with experience and big-game players. Many of them have played in the Premier League and represented their country.

So last year was a big reality check.

Finishing in 15th position hurt the players' pride. Flirting with relegation rather than promotion was not what anyone of a blue and white persuasion expected. Perhaps they can use that disappointment as a motivation for the challenges that lie ahead.

The youth development

Luhukay firmly believes in their youth set-up, handing first-team debuts to the likes of Ash Baker, Jordan Thorniley, Frederik Nielsen and Connor Kirby. Luhukay's hands may be tied in the transfer market, but there is plenty of talent coming through the academy. A lot of them have not looked out of their depth in the hustle-and-bustle of the Championship, which is an encouraging sign for the future of the club.

Momentum from last season

Wednesday found their mojo in the final 10 outings of the 2017/18 season, accruing 20 points and hitting 21 goals. Their late run lifted the gloom around the place and brought the smiles back to Hillsborough. It underlined what the squad is capable of and that charge should give them confidence to go on and achieve bigger and better things.

Kind start

Football is, of course, not played on paper but the Owls will fancy their chances of hitting the ground running. None of Wigan Athletic, Hull City, Brentford, Millwall, Ipswich Town or Reading have been tipped to challenge for promotion. It represents an opportunity for Wednesday to put some points on the board and give themselves a platform to build on.

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