Carlos Carvalhal apparently suggested some weeks ago, in private to fellow columnist Alan Biggs, that Sheffield Wednesday would secure a spot in the play offs before the final game of the season against Fulham.
To me this shows the level of belief that he has in his squad of players and he can only be applauded for that. He chose not to shout it from the rooftops, apparently only speaking about it in private and most definitely ‘off the record’. This again, is good management in my opinion, Carlos obviously not wanting to put any extra pressure on his players who I am sure have been well aware of the expectations of them this season.
When you are working with a group of players day-in day-out, part of your job is to pick up on the mood and overall attitude within the group. The run of six straight wins in a row has been nothing short of fantastic and Carlos obviously felt that something like this could happen.
I’m sure that the training ground has been a very enjoyable place to be of late and everyone will have been eager to try and get some game time in the run in to the end of the season. The man-management of players is more important these days than it has ever been, especially when you have an abundance of players to choose from like down at Hillsborough. It really is a full time job and that’s where the back room staff play their part in keeping that buoyant mood bubbling along.
Modern football is all about utilising the squad and it is a far cry from the days of having one substitute. It isn’t easy trying to keep everybody happy, especially players who feel they should be in the starting line-up and yet find themselves sat on the bench and playing only a bit part. The job that the manager has done this year cannot be undervalued in that respect. Only the last month or so we have seen both Jordan Rhodes and Fernando Forestieri not included in the starting line up. Finding the right balance is crucial and you have to make all the players feel included and part of what is happening as you may need to call on one or two of them at any point in the run-in or play-offs.
From the outside looking in there seems to be that togetherness and team spirit shining through just at the right time. Remember the scenes at Brighton last year when a date at Wembley had been secured, the players and staff celebrated with the fans for what seemed an age after that game and you could see the tightness of the group. It seems to me that this feeling is back at Hillsborough and having booked a place in the play-offs with another excellent result down at Ipswich it couldn’t be at a better time of the season.
Being a professional footballer is an incredibly fortunate life. You are doing something that you love, in most cases something that you have strived to achieve since being a very small boy. To live out that dream is an incredible experience but no matter how much you love the game there are times when players will get fed up of it.
Some people will find this hard to believe, but trust me, it is true. When the club is on the up, you have all to play for and the play offs around the corner I can not imagine there will be anybody feeling that way at S6 right now. That is testament to the fantastic job that Carlos Carvalhal, his staff and of course the players have done this season. Securing their play off place with the final game of the season still to come, for the second year running is no mean feat. I am sure nobody was looking forward to having to face Fulham in the final match, needing a point or a win to achieve that goal. It would have undoubtedly been a nervous affair but instead we can look forward to a carnival atmosphere down at Hillsborough to finish off a very successful campaign.
I can see some players possibly being rested on Sunday, which will allow some of the other players to step in and achieve some game time. Whatever team he chooses to play, each and every one of the players will, I’m sure be looking forward to it. There aren’t many occasions when you can go out and play with the freedom that will be afforded the players on Sunday and I would imagine that the day will be one to savour.
The result will have a major bearing on who we face in the play-offs but as long as nothing calamitous happens then I can not imagine Reading, Huddersfield or Fulham will be queuing up to play the in form team, Sheffield Wednesday.
Can we go one better than last year? Yes, I think we can. The experience of losing at Wembley last season will be something that every player will have learnt from. That bitter taste of defeat when you are so close to ultimate achievement will have been hard to take and shows what a great achievement it is to get there again this year.
They have a chance to put that Wembley defeat right and its not often that you get the opportunity to do so in football. The determination and belief within the group will be much talked about and I can only wish them the absolute best of luck in it all. I’ll be there, hopefully celebrating with the rest of you. Three games from the promised land of the Premier League, come on Wednesday!
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques 21-23 Leigh Street, Sheffield S9 2PR