Sheffield Wednesday: Michael Hector reveals the secret behind the Owls’ defensive improvement
It was at the great footballing cathedral of Stamford Bridge where Michael Hector witnessed first hand the Owls' extraordinary fanbase.
The commanding defender was ineligible to face his parent club Chelsea but opted to travel by train with Wednesday fans to west London.
Hector was among the Owls' 6,000 supporters, who made a big racket throughout the FA Cup fourth round tie last month.
He told The Star: "I was in the away end covered in beer! It was crazy.
"My best friend was alongside me in the crowd. A few fans recognised me but it was good fun. It was something that I had never really done before.
"It was an eye-opener to see what it was like. It got a little bit carried away at the start but there were 6,000 fans so it was going to be lively. It was good to be part of it."
It was a special, surreal experience for Hector.
But Wednesday were unable to pull off a cup shock as Premier League big boys Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 success after goals either side of half-time from Willian (2) and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Hector said: "Obviously, it was not the result we wanted but without VAR (video assistant referee) who knows what would have happened."
The Owls will be backed by a sell-out 2,477 following when they face local rivals Rotherham United at the AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 1pm.
“The support here is unbelievable,” said Hector. “We appreciate the fans support a lot.
“Sometimes the performances are not good but we try to always give 110 per cent and that is all you can do.
"To be fair, the fans can tell whether you are giving 110 per cent or not and they stick behind you no matter what and they have done it even through tough times this season."
Hector, on loan from Chelsea until the end of the campaign, has starred in an upturn in Wednesday's fortunes. The Jamaican international has been a key figure in the Owls racking up eight clean sheets in the last 12 matches since Jos Luhukay's departure.
Wednesday recorded their fourth shut out on the spin in the Championship on Tuesday evening. Steve Bruce’s side defended resolutely, particularly in the first half, to frustrated a physical, direct Millwall side.
It is a far cry from earlier on in the 2018/19 season when the Owls shipped in goals at regular intervals under Luhukay.
Hector said: "Obviously, as a defender, you want to keep clean sheets so it has been a good period for us.
"As a team, we have not defended as well as we should have done (this season) but we have turned it around. We can only improve.
"It has been good to keep the ball out of the net. The main thing for a defender is to keep a clean sheet. It is like a goal.”
Central defender Hector thinks consistency in selection has helped them shore things up at the back. Wednesday decided to go back to basics and the back four has largely consisted of Liam Palmer, Tom Lees, Hector and Morgan Fox in recent weeks.
Keiren Westwood has also produced a number of assured performances since returning in goal.
"I think it helps once you get a run together with the same unit,” said Hector. "Obviously, the Hull game was a bad performance from the team.
"But we have kept the same unit for the last month or so and you can tell with the results that we have grown in confidence together and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"When someone makes a mistake, we back each other up. I think that has been the key. At the start of the season, we kept changing and people didn't know whether they were playing or not. Now we know when we play well and keep clean sheets that we will keep our shirt and that has given the back five the confidence to defend well.”
It is in the final third where the Owls still need to sharpen up. Wednesday have scored just four times in 2019.
Hector said: "It is just one of those things. Once we get it together, we know we will be in a good place. I feel that we are confident and are creating good chances. That is the main thing.
"We just have to be more ruthless at the top end of the pitch and that will come.”