Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Why it is too early to judge the Owls' promotion credentials

The beauty of the Championship is it is one of the toughest, most demanding leagues in the world.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 17:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th October 2019, 15:14 pm

It is a relentless, unforgiving, unpredictable division that constantly throws up surprises.

Just look at how congested it is in the top half of the table after almost a quarter of the season. Only six points separate leaders West Bromwich Albion from 12th-placed Birmingham City.

Wednesday, meanwhile, have made a promising start to life under Garry Monk and seem to be heading in the right direction. Given the Owls have picked up 10 points from Monk's five league matches in charge, it is easy to understand the quiet optimism emanating from Hillsborough.

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"I think we have made some good strides and the players are understanding what we are trying to do," said Monk. "We have had a really good points return since I have come in and we have to continue that as we look to improve the players in areas that we need to."

Sam Hutchinson and Fernando Forestieri, two influential senior players, will be pushing to return after the international break, having served their respective suspensions, and Tom Lees is edging closer to a first-team return after a lengthy injury lay-off. They will only make the squad stronger for the big tests looming on the horizon.

Things are looking up and the Owls will go top of the table if they beat Neil Warnock's Cardiff City team on Friday, October 18 (Wednesday kick-off 24 hours before their promotion rivals).

But are the Owls genuine promotion contenders? It is far too early to judge in my humble opinion.

Let's not forget what happened 12 months ago. The Owls entered the second international break last season sitting pretty in sixth position and Jos Luhukay was left grinning like a Cheshire cat after their superb away win at Bristol City.

Things then went horribly wrong from mid-October onwards. The wheels well and truly came off as Wednesday lost four on the bounce and slipped out of promotion contention. Luhukay eventually lost his job before Christmas.

I am not suggesting for one minute that lightning will strike twice and there will again be a sharp downturn in the Owls' results over the autumn period. This is an experienced group of players and you would like to think they learnt valuable lessons from that chastening experience.

Yet the fact is Wednesday have only played three of the current top-12 this term, garnering just one point from tussles with high-flying Preston North End, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers.

Sam Hutchinson is available after serving a one-match suspension

Monk's men face a tough run of fixtures after the break, starting with Cardiff away. The Bluebirds, a big, physical, direct side, have yet to lose on their own turf, picking up 13 points from a possible 15.

However, Wednesday are starting to build momentum and taking a scalp like Cardiff would make the rest of the Championship sit up and take notice. It is a chance to send out a real statement of intent.