Exclusive: Carlos Carvalhal lifts the lid on his time in the Sheffield Wednesday dugout

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Carlos Carvalhal was the first foreign manager in Sheffield Wednesday's long, colourful history.

The charismatic Portuguese chief, a leftfield appointment in the summer of 2015, memorably guided the Owls to back-to-back play-offs.

His side earned plenty of admirers and rave reviews for the attractive, entertaining brand of football they played in Carvalhal's first year in charge. He took the Owls to within 90 minutes of promotion but they were second best in their Wembley play-off final defeat to Hull City.

Their style of play was not as pleasing on the eye the following year but Carvalhal delivered a second successive top-six finish. However, they came up short in the end-of-season knockout again, losing on penalties to Huddersfield Town in the semi-finals.

Expectations were high heading into last season but Wednesday struggled for consistency and injuries piled up.

Carvalhal was unable to turn around their fortunes and left the Championship club by mutual consent after a seven-match winless run last Christmas Eve.

Former Owls captain Glenn Loovens and Carlos Carvalhal

Former Owls captain Glenn Loovens and Carlos Carvalhal

In an wide-ranging interview with The Star's Owls writer Dom Howson, Carvalhal gives the lowdown on his two-and-a-half-year stint at Hillsborough.

Dom Howson (DH): You worked as a television pundit at the Owls v Middlesbrough match on Friday night. How did it feel returning to Hillsborough?

Carlos Carvalhal (CC): When Sky invited me to cover the game, I initially said 'no, I can't.'

But after I thought about it for a couple of days, I thought 'why not?'

Carvalhal managed over 130 matches as Owls boss

Carvalhal managed over 130 matches as Owls boss

I have an emotional connection with the club, the players, the fans, the people who work within the club and journalists also. That is the reality.

This connection, of course, is still very fresh. It is an always emotional moment when I go back to Hillsborough.

It was an emotional moment when I went back with Swansea in the cup earlier this year. I can't say that it is normal.

I have just good memories of Sheffield Wednesday.

Carvalhal with Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan

Carvalhal with Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan

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DH: When you look back on your time at Wednesday, how would you sum it up?

CC: We turned everything around.

The year before we arrived the team had won only five home games and finished in 13th position.

We turned things very fast and within a few weeks we were playing some fantastic football and improving the team day by day.

We had fantastic moments. We reached the final of the play-offs, beating Brighton in the semi-finals despite finishing 15 points behind them in the league season.

Carvalhal steered the Owls to back-to-back play-offs

Carvalhal steered the Owls to back-to-back play-offs

I have great memories of the final at Wembley. I'm absolutely sure we woke the giant that year.

DH: Do you ever look back at Wembley or the Huddersfield semi-final and think what might have been?

CC: Of course.

But we performed better in the second year and achieved fourth place.

We didn't lose against Huddersfield. We drew both games and lost on penalties in the second leg. We had a great season again and played at a high level.

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DH: From your point of view, what went wrong in the third season?

CC: It was different. Expectations were more high.

We didn't upgrade the team with more value. That was the reality.

It was hard with the financial situation in the third season.

We needed to upgrade the team but we had limitations to bring in players. People sometimes said to me 'why don't you sign someone like Lewis Dunk?'

We knew who the best players were in the Championship but it is one thing knowing your targets; it is another bringing the players in. They are two completely different things.

We were also unlucky with injuries which made the team more weak and we didn't play at the same level or intensity.

We lost some games and, of course, we understand how football works but people easily forgot about the two previous seasons.

After the second season, we had the best record in terms of winning points at the club in the last 50 years. Fifty years. It is a stamp that will stay forever.

DH: Cardiff City centre-half Sean Morrison was the club's number one transfer target in the summer of 2017. How much of a difference would he have made to the team?

CC: It was public that he was one of our targets. We wanted a strong centre-back.

Although we were happy with the players we had in the position, we had tried to bring in another player there since the first season but it was not possible.

I had a list of the players that we wanted and some of them now play for the England national team. The players we wanted in the first season played in the Championship and are now playing for England.

We knew exactly what we wanted. But it is one thing knowing what you want. The other thing is the reality. They are two completely different things.

Farewell Carlos and thanks for letting us dream again

DH: What would your response be to some fans who questioned the club's recruitment drive?

CC: We brought in players with value and the value of the players has now gone up four or five times more than what we paid.

Look at Fernando Forestieri, Lucas Joao, Barry Bannan, Adam Reach and Sam Winnall. All their values have increased and there are other players there who are now better than when we signed them.

I'm very proud of what we did and I think we created value with the players that we brought to the club.

DH: Have you got any regrets with how things ended? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

CC: I think in the third season we could have maybe played different systems.

When I went to Swansea, I started to play three at the back, for example. People were a little surprised at that because I played all the time 4-4-2 when I was at Sheffield Wednesday.

The players knew and understood the 4-4-2 system and they played well in our first two seasons at Sheffield Wednesday. We believed in that system and we won a big percentage of the games.

If you ask me now should I have tried changing something, maybe I would have tried a different system.

DH: Why were you reluctant to play three at the back with Wednesday?

CC: We were not so strong to play that system. We had some players who were injured like Glenn Loovens and Joost van Aken. We pushed Daniel Pudil into centre-half, which was a good option.

If I could have done something different in my third season, I would probably have tried in the last games a new system.

DH: Do you still keep an eye on the team's results?

CC: I always follow their results. I get an alert on my phone every time there is Sheffield Wednesday news. It is not just about this season. I will do that forever.

I have an emotional connection to this club, just like I had a strong one at Besiktas.

At this moment, I'm a supporter of Sheffield Wednesday. Of course, if I play against Sheffield Wednesday in the future, I will do my work and try to win!

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Carvalhal's win ratio as Sheffield Wednesday boss was more than 42%

Carvalhal's win ratio as Sheffield Wednesday boss was more than 42%

Carvalhal was left distraught after Sheffield Wednesday lost at Wembley

Carvalhal was left distraught after Sheffield Wednesday lost at Wembley

Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri and Carvalhal

Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri and Carvalhal

Carvalhal with Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan

Carvalhal with Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan