A ‘powerful' club with a heavy shirt: examining the pressures of playing for Sheffield Wednesday

Floodlights on, an expectant crowd, frustrating performances; the pressure of playing for a club the size of Sheffield Wednesday is one most of us can only imagine.

By Alex Miller
Friday, 1st May 2020, 5:00 pm

And while it’s a pressure many thousands of people would dream of taking on, it’s one that clearly affects a certain type of player, according to former Wednesday manager Terry Yorath.

Wednesday’s home form this season, much like their form in general, has been split in two. Garry Monk went eight league matches without defeat at Hillsborough before a controversial 2-1 reversal against Cardiff on December 29.

And from there, the home defeats kept coming, five in their next seven with only one win arriving at home in 2020. It was a slide the players looked ill-equipped to reverse.

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Yorath’s reflection on his largely difficult time as manager at the turn of the century highlights the issue some players have with the weight of the Wednesday shirt.

Lloyd Owusu, Leon Knight and John Beswetherick – by the end of their careers experienced league professionals who had accumulated over 800 league appearances between them – were three players he said struggled with the mental side of representing the club.

“In his first few games, he [Owusu] kept collapsing. He would fall to the ground and throw up,” Yorath said in Tom Whitworth's book Owls: Sheffield Wednesday Through the Modern Era.

“I’d seen players be sick in the dressing room before a game, but never on the pitch… I think it was nerves.

Sheffield Wednesday have struggled at home after a long unbeaten run that stretched from August to December.

“Lloyd couldn’t cope with being at such a high-profile club like Sheffield Wednesday.

“Neither could Leon Knight, he couldn’t hack it either. Maybe it was the big crowds or the aura of the place, the ground itself.

“The worst case was John Beswetherick. He was a left-back who I’d heard great reports about, he had a good left foot on him, but he just could not play at Hillsborough, the club was miles too big for John.

“It was all just down to nerves – he just couldn’t hack it.”

Monk has been honest about the need for a shake-up in the make-up of the Wednesday dressing room and has questioned the leadership shown in the side since Christmas.

He has time and again praised the Wednesday support for its patience in what were a difficult few weeks heading into the coronavirus-enforced suspension of football.

Speaking at his unveiling in September, Monk alluded to the pressures and challenges of representing Sheffield Wednesday.

He said: “I know how powerful a club this is and the history and the tradition of the club and know the backing that the chairman has given the club over the years.

“There are big clubs in this league with tradition and history. The overriding factor is that I am excited.

“The thing that is exciting is that we know it is a capable squad and that it is potentially a very strong squad in this league. It is about trying to find a way to bring that out. That is the big thing.”