Inside the Darren Moore month of madness that will spark optimism in Sheffield Wednesday's survival mission
He’s been here before, though things were far more perilous.
When Darren Moore stepped in to take on the role of caretaker manager at West Bromwich Albion in April 2018, there were only six Premier League matches left and relegation was something of a certainty at the Hawthorns.
Four years on and with a wealth of experience on his CV after his West Brom gig was turned permanent and he oversaw a successful period with Doncaster Rovers, the 46-year-old has much more chance of doing something quite special at Wednesday, who are six points adrift in the Championship table with 14 league matches remaining.
It is that first foray in management that may well be of most immediate interest to Wednesday fans.
Moore had been promoted to first team involvement by former Owls manager Tony Pulis before stepping into the managerial shoes of Alan Pardew after nine defeats on the spin, a run that makes Wednesday’s current run of four defeats in five look small-fry in comparison.
Within a few weeks he had a Premier League manager of the month award on his mantlepiece having picked up a brow-beaten side to a draw with Carlos Carvalhal’s Swansea City, claim a famous win at Old Trafford that effectively handed the title to Manchester City, a hugely impressive draw with Liverpool and wins over Newcastle and Spurs before a last-day defeat at Palace.
It was an instant impact that bodes well for the Owls’ fight against relegation and led to his full-time appointment that summer.
“He did exactly what the club wanted him to do,” Paul Suart, West Brom writer for the Birmingham Mail at the time, told The Star.
“He didn’t change much in terms of playing style. He kept it simple, reverted mainly to a 4-4-2 and played players in positions they were best at. They were so resolute defensively and it wasn’t earth-shattering stuff; keep it simple, cut out the mistakes.”
Moore’s big, people-first personality was a big part of the resurgence, Suart recalls. He was a popular figure in the changing room and instilled confidence into a group of players that had none just a few weeks earlier.
“He’s still revered by all West Brom fans despite underachieving a little in his first permanent season,” Suart said. “Everyone speaks fondly of him and he’s one of the good guys in football.
“Players responded to him coming in for sure. He’s a good bloke, he’ll have respect and popularity among the players.
“Soloman Rondon immediately looked like a player when Moore came in and Jake Livermore was excellent. He almost played himself into the World Cup squad that year and was in great form in those six games. Moore gave him a new lease of life, arriving in the box. He looked a completely different player.
“James McLean had a big step-up, too, a genuine winger getting crosses in early. It was simple stuff as I say, but it was hugely effective.”
Whether Callum Paterson can have a similar role as Wednesday’s Rondon, whether Barry Bannan is chosen to step up as their Livermore and whether Adam Reach can take on the role of McClean will be interesting.
With 14 games to go, another Moore resurgence would be very welcome at Hillsborough.