It’s all change at Sheffield Wednesday.
There’s a new man in charge of the first-team in Carlos Carvalhal, a plethora of new players, a new state-of-the-art pitch and a big new screen at Hillsborough.
As the big kick-off draws nearer, four Wednesdayites: Hugh Wragg, Lee Hicklin, Laura Jones and Ian Elson, have given their thoughts on the new era as the big kick-off draws nearer.
How optimistic are you about the new season?
Laura Jones (LJ): We have a squad of new players, a new management and coaching structure and new facilities. It’s going to take some time to get everything settled so I’m waiting with bated breath to see if the chairman’s vision comes off.
Lee Hicklin (LH): Quite - which is scarily high for me! For the first time in a while it feels like Wednesday are being considered as a genuine threat to the top places in the division, which feels quite strange.
Although I’m a season ticket holder, the ticket price announcement for the Bristol City game has put a dent in the positivity for me I’m afraid. The chairman has explained his reasonings behind it, and it’s good to see he’s pro-active when it comes to listening to the fans’ concerns, but £39 just can’t be justified in my opinion - even £34 if you’re a member is too high. Hopefully it doesn’t set a trend and we’ll see more Category E and F games than B and C.
Ian Elson (IE): As a lifelong Owls fan, this is as optimistic as I have felt for many a year. It felt a little bit like we have just gone through the motions over the last 10 to 15 seasons, even when Milan Mandaric was in charge, but with the new pitch, scoreboard, manager and new signings we have more hope this time around.
What are your thoughts on Wednesday’s summer recruitment drive? How happy are you with the squad?
Hugh Wragg (HW): We gave brought in some good players at this level in Lewis McGugan, Jack Hunt and Ross Wallace but the squad still carries significant holes and lacks depth in several positions. Both flanks are under-staffed and the promised centre forward remains elusive.
IE: Happy so far with the recruitment, even if a little in the dark about a lot of the signings.
LJ: After the end of the season there was a long tumbleweed time where nothing seemed to be happening at the club and then there was a constant queue for the medical exam room. I was worried that we seemed to be concentrating on buying defenders at first, which wasn’t our weaker area but securing Lewis McGugan and players like Ross Wallace shows we are looking at the whole formation.
LH: I probably speak for most of the Owls fanbase when I say I’d never heard of the foreign players we’ve signed, and I’ve only caught glimpses of them at Alfreton and York, but it seems like they’re well thought of on the continent and hopefully will add something to the team. Alex Lopez and Marco Matias in particular look like ones to keep an eye on.
Who will be Wednesday’s key player?
HW: Jose Semedo - a central pivot around which several different squads have played and later broken apart. He has been a constant since our lowest recent ebb, and while many criticise his shortcomings and several players have come in as a ‘better option’, Semedo is still here and is rightly our first choice defensive midfielder.
LJ: Keiren Westwood will continue to be key for the Owls as will Tom Lees in front of him. What we need to build on last season’s defensive record is the attacking creativity and this is where I hope Marco Matias bring some skill.
LH: It might be a boring choice, but if Keiren Westwood can bring his form from last season into this, then he’ll be as good as a 25 goal striker. Outstanding goalkeeper, and how he isn’t the automatic first choice for Ireland I’ll never know.
IE: Marco Matias clearly has pedigree. You don’t score 17 goals in Portugal’s top flight without having something about you.
What have you made of Carlos Carvalhal since his appointment?
LJ: He has a very clear vision of what his football ethos is. He’s even written a book about it! I’m keen to see how that translates to Championship football. If his emphasis is on attractive, attacking football then I can’t wait to see that on the green, green Hillsborough grass.
IE: Like most Wednesday fans, I hadn’t heard of Carvahal and wondered why we hadn’t gone for a household name. The proof, of course, will be in the pudding, but the promise of aggressive, attacking, exciting football is what Owls fans want to see.
LH: Carvalhal’s CV reads well. He is obviously a really nice person and he seems genuinely enthusiastic to be here. He obviously has specific ideas on how he wants to play and how to get results, so it’ll be interesting to see how it works. With the investment we’ve made this summer, there is more pressure on him than on previous managers - he’ll have to get off to a good start.
HW: Carvalhal is an eloquent, well spoken and very likeable man and fans have warmed to him since his surprise appointment. I like the fact we have appointed a student of the game rather than an ‘old school’ or typically English manager.
Where do you think Wednesday will finish?
LH: Top two will probably be out of our reach, but I don’t think a push for the play-offs is impossible. I’ll say seventh, which might look heartbreaking on the face of it, but it’d still be a sixth successive season where we’ve finished higher than the previous campaign.
HW: We will better our finish from last season but still fall short of the play-offs by 10 or so points.
LJ: Hoping for an improvement on last season. If we can finish seventh or eighth, that would be great.
IE: It still depends on how we tackle the striker position, but, if we do sign a goal-scorer, I think we will flirt with the play-offs before finishing eighth.
Who will be the sides pushing for promotion?
HW: Wolves, Middlesbrough and Derby are the obvious contenders from last season. Of the relegated sides, perhaps Burnley are the best placed.
IE: Derby look a strong outfit to me with the money they have spent on players. Can see QPR, Hull and Middlesborough being there or thereabouts.
LH: Middlesbrough and Derby have added to already impressive squads with some fantastic signings so if you finish above either of them you’ll have a great chance of going up. I’d also expect improved seasons from the likes of Fulham, Cardiff and Brighton - add the relegated Premier League sides into the mix and it should be a cracking season.
LJ: It’s hard to look past Middlesbrough. Acquiring Premier League standard players like Stewart Downing shows they’re building on their promotion push from last season. QPR, Hull and Derby should all be up there with Bristol City as possible dark horses.