Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Why a top-six finish is a realistic target for Garry Monk's side
A little over 12 months ago, Sheffield Wednesday were managed by a quiet, unassuming Dutchman and sat in the bottom half of the Championship.
Jos Luhukay was an experienced boss but he couldn't cut it in the end in English football. He blooded too many youngsters too soon, ostracised senior players, constantly rotated his team and failed to tighten up a leaky defence. The Owls went backwards under Luhukay.
But fast forward to the present day and Wednesday currently occupy a play-off place and are only three points off top spot going into November. They are five points better off than after 14 matches of last season and nine positions higher in the table.
In fact, it took Wednesday until the penultimate fixture of Luhukay's dismal reign to reach the 24 point mark.
No wonder Garry Monk thinks Wednesday are in a "healthy position" and heading in the "right direction".
It is abundantly clear that Monk has tried to build from the back since taking over the Owls reins in September, with the likes of Keiren Westwood, Dominic Iorfa and Julian Börner helping lay a solid defensive platform. The Owls boast the second meanest defence in the division behind Leeds United, having racked up an impressive six clean sheets and conceded a miserly 10 goals.
Monk, whose team travel to out-of-form Blackburn Rovers this weekend, has seen his team let in just four goals in his eight league outings.
"The players have been great with me these last seven or eight weeks we have had together," admitted Monk.
Their strong defensive record is in stark contrast to 2018 when Wednesday kept just three shut-outs in the first half of the campaign.
After a solid start to the Monk era, confidence and belief is growing in the Owls camp.
Monk said: "We have been in a position where we regularly take points whilst we’re still growing."
Can this group of players still get better? Most definitely.
They must improve their efficiency in the final third if they are to realise their potential. A lack of a cutting edge has cost them points against Cardiff City and Leeds United.
But Monk's men have proved they can mix it with the big boys in this league. Fulham, Cardiff and Leeds are all expected to be in the promotion shake-up come next May and Wednesday have more than matched them.
Yet the Owls are in need of a statement win over a top end side to show to their rivals they are not just flat-track bullies. It would also do wonders for their confidence.
Should Wednesday start beating the teams in and around them and add some extra pace and firepower to their attack in the January transfer window, then there is no reason why they can't finish in the top six. They have already shown there is nothing to be frightened of in the second-tier.