Plenty of reasons for Sheffield Wednesday fans to be optimistic about the future
After a testing, grim first half of the season, there are now plenty of reasons for Wednesdayites to be cheerful.
An eight-match unbeaten run has lifted the mood around Hillsborough, giving the club an outside chance of a late play-off challenge.
The smiles are back, the players are enjoying their football again and the Owls have become a hard side to beat. Only Hull City and Premier League big boys Chelsea (in the FA Cup) have beaten the South Yorkshire club since Jos Luhukay was axed on December 21.
Their strong, consistent run of form has catapulted Wednesday up to 13th with 11 matches to go. Now they are daring to dream of a top-six tilt.
Centre-forward Steven Fletcher told The Star: "We will just keep our heads down and will let other people talk about that (the play-offs).
"The gaffer has got us going in the right direction. We will keep our heads down and see where we are at the end."
The arrival of Steve Bruce as boss and his coaching staff has galvanised the squad. Bruce, the former Manchester United defender, boasts a wealth of experience in management. He has guided Birmingham City and Hull City to promotion on two occasions each and led Aston Villa to the Championship play-off final last year.
"He (Bruce) has brought in great backroom staff," admitted Fletcher. "The coaching staff have been brilliant with everyone.
"When the gaffer comes into a room, he has a real presence.
"He has had a great playing and coaching career so everyone looks up to him. When he walks into a room, you always feel a bit like 'the gaffer is in the room' and you can tell he is in.
"It is good. I think you need that in football."
Wednesday could have cut the gap to the play-offs down to four points if they had defeated arch rivals Sheffield United in Monday's Steel City derby.
Sam Hutchinson had the best chance of a dour, edgy affair. His second half shot from close range was well saved by Dean Henderson.
"We knew what to expect from them," said Fletcher. "We set up to try and stop them going forward because they are very good at doing that and I think we managed to do that.
"I think we probably had the best chance with Sam, who was unlucky not to score. He is not usually up there but he did well to break his neck and get in the penalty area.
"He was unlucky with the chance."