Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday Column: What to do with Fernando Forestieri, the player dubbed ‘the best in the Championship’ by ex-Owls boss?

Keep him. Sell him. Play him here. Play him there.

Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 11:06 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 11:12 am
Reading get around Owls striker Fernando Forestieri.............Pic Steve Ellis

What to do with Fernando Forestieri?

Those who pay to watch, and are paid to write about, Sheffield Wednesday have periodic multiple disagreements. Except for one thing. Fully fit and flying, he’s a top player. And Wednesday’s most gifted.

Reading get around Owls striker Fernando Forestieri.............Pic Steve Ellis

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Seldom has it been more evident that the Owls need this little man back to his best. While yet to concede in three unbeaten games under new boss Steve Bruce, they have mustered just one goal - and only three in the last eight matches in all competitions.

“As good a player as there is in the Championship,” Bruce has said of Forestieri.

“THE best,” was the recent unequivocal judgement of former Owls manager Gary Megson.

I suspect that when Megson was in his last job assisting Tony Pulis at the Hawthorns, West Brom would have pursued an interest given any encouragement.

The fact is no club has been encouraged to bid throughout the Hillsborough ownership of Dejphon Chansiri, whose regime made Forestieri one of its first and most expensive purchases.

In the January window, it was reported that the former Watford striker was for sale - but at £14m, clearly prohibitive and wildly unrealistic for a player dogged by injuries and only just returned from another lay-off.

Valuations, and proactive bargaining, may change to more realism now that Bruce has a handle on transfer dealings.

But he knows a special player when he sees one. As Fernando certainly is - on his day. If he has enough of those days between now and the end of the season then not only does the value go up, but Bruce can be fully convinced that Forestieri is central to his plans.

While Wednesday have to be more head-over-heart in the face of future offers, this is an individual no-one at this level would want to sell if he performs as consistently as in his  first two seasons at the club.

Hence all the arguments swaying backwards and forwards over subsequent seasons.

This column has done somersaults on the issue. When an offer around £13m arrived two summers ago, I thought Wednesday made a mistake - and still do - in rejecting it, quite possibly against the advice of then-head coach Carlos Carvalhal.

Cue a long-term injury ruling him out until the back end of last season - when the former Watford striker returned to such effect that I felt he could make himself indispensable.

Following that fleeting spell came a fitful one under Jos Luhukay, as Forestieri joined the ranks of senior players clearly disillusioned if not entirely dislodged.

Now you feel that, in Bruce, he has the kind of man-manager under whom he can thrive again, just as he did in scoring 15 goals and then 12 in his two full seasons for Carvalhal.

That said, Bruce is hard-headed and that is part of what Wednesday need right now. Forestieri is 29, with a marketability that can go one of two ways.

But there is no doubt he is a special talent, a personality who excites and commands affection from this Hillsborough crowd. There can’t be a Wednesday watcher who wouldn’t hope to see him at his best for a sustained period.

If that happens, he is a match-winner worth keeping. If not, it’s decision time on an asset who’ll have no value when his contract is out at the end of next season. 

Fernando, the ball is at your feet. Bruce, for one, is unlikely to take it off you.