Ex-Sheffield Wednesday favourite on League One challenge, Owls memories and why Darren Moore could hold the key to the transfer market
A former Sheffield Wednesday fan favourite has spelled out what the club need to do to re-build and make their way out of League One.
Guy Whittingham, who made 113 league appearances for the Owls in a five-year spell from 1994 to 1999, believes the influence of Owls boss Darren Moore, who he worked with at Portsmouth can play a big part in the club’s much-needed squad rebuild.
He also offered thoughts on how that rebuild should look. Whittingham knows League One better than most through his work as a co-commentator on BBC Radio Solent, covering matches home and away with Portsmouth, with whom he spent three spells in a stellar career.
The size and expectation on players at the so-called ‘big clubs’ in the third tier, he said, is a factor that should drive Wednesday’s thinking. The fact that this is a different division to the one they’ve been playing in for so long and it should be treated as such.
“The biggest thing I've noticed between Championship sides and League One sides is the physicality,” Whittingham told The Star. “It's not being big and strong, it's about being athletic.
“Rotherham are a prime example when they've come down, their ability to get around the pitch, to close players down, to be able to dominate the game.
“A good model is to go at what Blackpool have done this year; how they've recruited and how they play the game. They have some quick players in attacking areas, full backs that get forward with pace.
“I can understand Wednesday wanting to get younger players in that have the aptitude and physical attributes to play a quicker, more dynamic game.
“Portsmouth have failed in recruitment. Like at Wednesday, there is a lot of expectation. Wednesday will be under a lot of pressure to get straight back up, but it's not easy, there are a lot of teams that want to get up and there's a lot of competition. It's relentless.
“Squads are set up to take injuries, but injuries to key players at certain times can kill a season, and that is what has happened at Portsmouth from time to time.
“You have to recruit people that are durable and can handle pressure at big clubs, either older heads that know how to deal with that experience or young ones that maybe haven't experienced it before and don't know what that fear is.”
Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri said in a statement in the hours after relegation that he would do all he can to ‘achieve promotion at the first attempt’, a task that will be far from easy given the presence of a host of teams that have a similar goal.
Portsmouth, who too are set for something of a busy summer under new management team Danny and Nicky Cowley, will surely be among them.
And the very status of that type of club, so too the likes of Sunderland and Ipswich, Whittingham said, can be something of a hindrance.
“Teams come to Fratton Park and you can see they fancy it,” he said. “And it will be exactly the same at Hillsborough. Some teams will see playing at Hillsborough as their cup final.”
Entering into a coaching career that would see him take on the Pompey manager’s job in 2011, Whittingham worked alongside Wednesday boss Darren Moore at the Fratton Park club.
And it his reputation in the game and preferred style of play he believes can make a huge difference to their approach in the transfer market and in turning the club around.
Much has been made of Moore’s record of being able to secure coveted young talents on loan from some of the country’s biggest clubs, a record he is looking to advance at S6.
“They’re looking to get their players off to big clubs, decent clubs,” Whittingham said. “But they also want to loan their players out to clubs with a decent philosophy, to clubs that are going to play with a certain style.
“That's where an advantage comes to Darren because he plays the right style of football, but it's also a club where these youngsters are going to be put under pressure. That gets younger player in front of a crowd and at a club where winning really matters.
“Darren wants to play a good style of football, he doesn't want to just smash it forward,” Whittingham said. “He wants players who can play, pass, move in a high-tempo game.
“He's well organised, we've seen that at Doncaster before he left there and he wants to allow players the authority to do what they need to do. He builds really good relationships with players, he wants players to understand he's got their back, and he does.
“He's a person that wants everybody to be united, together and have a cause they're all fighting for.”
Whittingham, now 56, who also assists in the academy coaching of behemoth clubs such as Tottenham and Chelsea, said he is looking forward to returning to Hillsborough behind the microphone but is saddened the situation his former club finds itself in.
“I've got hugely fond memories,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to play regular Premier League football which coming from my background never seemed possible.
“I joined with Chris Waddle and Des Walker and those guys, but over time, until Di Canio and those guys turned up, there were no real big names, we were a side of good, hard-working lads who appreciated the support and held our own in that league.
“Players are always supported by fans if they can see their players putting in a shift. Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday are similar in that they have classy fans, working class people that put a shift in.
“When they spend their money and their time going to watch their football team, the least they expect is for their players to do the same.”