Sheffield Wednesday: Outpouring of support as forward ends scoreless run - now is the time for Sam Winnall to kick on
A Yorkshire derby, Sky television cameras, a new manager keen to offer new opportunities. Finding himself free in the box with Barry Bannan’s curling cross arrowing towards him, Sam Winnall couldn’t have designed the scenario better himself.
A flick of his head and within seconds he was being mobbed by his teammates in front of an appreciative Wednesday away allocation. Minutes later that allocation sang his name as he chased down Huddersfield possession. 2-0, job done. This, he must have thought, is what he’s been missing.
Because it’s a long time since Sam Winnall scored a goal in Sheffield Wednesday colours. Over two years in fact, on August 12 2017 in a 1-1 draw at home to QPR. Those with a tuned-in memory will appreciate the circumstances of that goal – wrapped around a reported bust-up with Fernando Forestieri that saw the Italian national left out of the matchday squad – and within days, Winnall was loaned out to Derby County in a disastrous exchange for Jacob Butterfield.
Fast forward to the present, past months of goalless, bit-part frustration, and the 28-year-old surely has a golden opportunity to wrestle his Hillsborough career back on track.
In Garry Monk he has a new manager keen to get the fans on side and keen to experiment with his front line. Monk’s post-Huddersfield press conference referenced the importance of confident strikers and in four-goal Steven Fletcher they have one. After Sunday’s display, Winnall could be another.
It was his intervention and a change of system that earned Wednesday the points in a 90 minutes where both sides lacked fluency. The best period for either side came after Winnall’s hour-mark introduction saw the away side switch to a system resembling a more traditional 4-4-2 and with the substitute harrying, jostling, making himself a nuisance up front, the Owls began to tick over nicely.
Huddersfield were tiring, Huddersfield looked woefully low on spirit, but with two to aim at Wednesday’s midfield became more creative, Fletcher was less isolated and Huddersfield melted further. Winnall’s goal was a just reward both for him and for Monk.
The manager has expressed his desire to try new systems and with any new boss comes that opportunity for players to breathe new life into their career. Sheffield Wednesday have too many forwards – that much is clear – but it was Winnall and Atdhe Nuhiu that made the bench ahead of Jordan Rhodes on Sunday. Fernando Forestieri won’t feature for another five games of course.
A hunt into the archives reveals a video of a young, happy Sam Winnall stood outside Hillsborough moments after his signing from Barnsley. Chest out, smile glued to his face, he had 11 goals in 22 Championship matches to his name and a burgeoning reputation to enhance.
An ambition to play in the Premier League, he says, is the reason he signed for Sheffield Wednesday. There will have been times in the past two years, you suspect, when that ambition could not have felt further away.
His side is a work in progress, yet to be moulded into Garry Monk’s ideal and Winnall will need more than one goal to get back to where he should be at this stage of his career.
But if their reaction to his half-hour cameo in Kirklees is anything to go by then the fans are on-side. If Monk’s apparent willingness to wipe the slate clean is realised, he’ll get chances.
If Sam Winnall can make the most of this golden opportunity, he can play a big part in Sheffield Wednesday’s next few months.