Most of the focus in the build-up to Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth round duel with Swansea City has surrounded one man.
Carlos Carvalhal’s return to Hillsborough undoubtedly adds an extra layer of intrigue to the tie and all eyes will be on the away dugout tomorrow.
It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Carvalhal gets. He earned plenty of plaudits for leading the Owls to back-to-back play-offs and the swashbuckling football the team produced in his first season in charge wowed the fan-base.
Carvalhal did a good job but he left the club by mutual consent on Christmas Eve in deep trouble. The team went backwards. Their style of play became slow and predictable. Towards the end of Carvalhal’s reign, he hardly ever varied his tactics and results deteriorated.
And Carvalhal is partly to blame for Wednesday’s inadequate recruitment drive post-Wembley 2016. Carvalhal was heavily backed in the transfer market by chairman Dejphon Chansiri but the club bought quantity over quality. The squad remains unbalanced.
Carvalhal did not leave the Owls in a healthy position so Jos Luhukay must be given time to rebuild and put his own stamp on things.
Luhukay’s patched up side delivered an outstanding performance in their midweek victory over promotion-chasing Derby County. If that doesn’t give them confidence, nothing will.
And there is plenty at stake for Wednesday this weekend. It’s a chance for some players to prove to Carvalhal he was wrong to not select them.
Even though their injuries continued to pile up defensively over December, Carvalhal, bafflingly, did not fancy Frederico Venancio. He signed the defender on loan from Vitoria Setubal but only played him once - and that came in Carvalhal’s final fixture.
Venancio has been given a new lease of life since Luhukay’s arrival, establishing himself as an integral part of his three-man defence.
There were other players who Carvalhal was reluctant to turn to. David Jones, George Boyd, Marco Matias, Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu were never given extended runs in the team. Matias was largely a forgotten figure.
Jones, Boyd, Joao and Nuhiu could all be involved on Saturday and the quartet should be wanting to show Carvalhal precisely what he missed out on.
As well as denting Carvalhal’s return, the Owls can take a step closer to Wembley with victory over the Swans. This has been a miserable 150th anniversary season so far for Wednesday but reaching the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time in 21 years could help bring the feelgood factor back to S6 and help boost the club’s coffers ahead of a big summer.