‘My heart was bleeding…’ – Atdhe Nuhiu opens up on his Sheffield Wednesday exit, his favourite Owls moment, and how Barry Bannan made sure he hit a major milestone
“If there is one thing that I can say, it’s that I can’t close my Sheffield Wednesday chapter fully - because I was never able to say goodbye.”
Little was known about Atdhe Nuhiu when he arrived at Sheffield Wednesday back in 2013. He was snapped up as a free transfer by Day after leaving Rapid Vienna, and all fans knew was that – at 6ft 6in – he was a bit of giant, and that at one stage he’d helped knock Aston Villa out of the Europa League.
Jones called Nuhiu a ‘real talent’ that would give Wednesday ‘another dimension’. A week later he scored on his debut against Queens Park Rangers and marked the beginning of what turned out to be a long relationship with the Owls faithful.
By the time he left last summer, the forward had racked up nearly 300 appearances in Wednesday colours and become only the second player this side of the millennium to score 50+ goals for the club.
The COVID-19 pandemic robbed the loyal servant of the chance to bid farewell to those that had chanted his name for the best part of a decade, but he still hopes to put that right at some point in the future.
Speaking from Austria, where he now plays for SCR Altach, Nuhiu told The Star, “I hope that one day, when they’re all back in the stadium, there will be a day where I can come back and say a proper goodbye. That would be my personal wish - then I could really close my chapter as a Wednesday player. I’d really, really like to do that…
“Sheffield Wednesday will always remain part of me… I played there many years, and you don’t forget that. Most of professional career was in Sheffield, so I’ll always follow them - last season my heart was bleeding the same way as the fans. I hope this season they will be back where they belong.”
Nuhiu has enjoyed a good start to life back in Austria with Altach, scoring on his debut in the ÖFB Cup and then grabbing an assist a couple of weeks later as they picked up their first Bundesliga win of the campaign, but he admits that he would have liked to stay at Hillsborough last season before he made the move to APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus.
“For players like me, and Kieran Lee, the contracts ran out and the talks were ongoing, but nothing was decisive. As a result of that, we all left. It was probably the right decision.
“Sheffield Wednesday was always my first priority, but there was always a bit of hesitation and nothing concrete. And because of Coronavirus there were a few financial issues. It was not an easy situation.”
But leave, he did. Drawing a line under what was ultimately a happy time in his career and one that saw him build up long-term friendships. He still keeps in touch with the likes of Tom Lees, Joey Pelupessy and Barry Bannan – and it was partly thanks to ‘Baz’ that he joined Marcus Tudgay on the short list of Owls with 50+ goals this side of the millennium.
“We played against Fulham, and I scored a penalty,” he remembers. “I went up to take it as I usually did if I was on the field - I was one of the penalty takers.
“I went there, and then suddenly Connor (Wickham) wanted to take it. I wasn’t too bothered, but then Baz came from behind and said I should take it because it would be my 50th goal.
“I knew about it, but it didn’t come up in my mind at that time. So it was amazing that he remembered and then encouraged me to take it. He gave me a boost.”
He’d have reached 50 without the penalty, of course, bagging his 51st – and final – Wednesday goal in the same game away at Craven Cottage, but it certainly wasn’t up there on his list of best goals.
His moment of magic against Preston North End, his kneeslide in the snow at Elland Road, the limbs at Watford away. He’s got plenty of happy memories to look back on as he ponders life at Hillsborough – but for him, two really stick out.
“I think Preston was the most beautiful goal I scored,” he said. “But there were other goals that were more important – goals that really meant a lot. Another one that stands out was my goal against Manchester City, because it was against one of the best teams in the world now.
“In terms of moments though, there are two. One was when we beat Brighton away and went to the Play-Off final, that was amazing. And obviously the experience at Wembley – that was a feeling I’ll never forget.”
And there are plenty of other moments that he gave fans over the years, developing a knack for popping up in the dying moments to rescue a point or earn a couple more. Now though, as the 32-year-old looks to keep that knack going elsewhere, his eyes remain on Hillsborough and the goings on at his old stomping ground. Once and always.
When asked if he had a message for the fans, he replied, “I want to thank them for all their support throughout my time. I’ll never forget it. And now I’m not a player, I’m one of them – I’m a Wednesdayite. So we can support Sheffield Wednesday together. Hopefully one day I can have that proper goodbye.”
Here’s to you, Atdhe Nuhiu.