It’s fair to say that not many people expected Sheffield Wednesday to be challenging for promotion this season.
Sheffield Wednesday are in something of a period of transition, the second race of Dejphon Chansiri’s reign, with the first crashing at the final turn under Carlos Carvalhal before the wheels came off altogether.
This was supposed to be a year where Wednesday got back on track and rebuilt for a future drive towards the riches of the Premier League’s promised land.
Faith in youth became a new priority, partly through necessity, with the coffers severely diminished by a period of big spending. However, academy-bred players being given the opportunity to perform ahead of more experienced squad members, even when they are fully fit, points to this being Jos Luhukay’s plan all along.
So with all that in mind, the fact that at this stage of the season the Owls find themselves in the play-off positions, is a remarkable achievement.
The squad’s mix of those who suffered the pain of that Wembley defeat to Hull City in the Play-Off Final in 2016 alongside youthful exuberance, hunger and fearlessness is providing a potent cocktail that could finish with dizzying result.
Maybe even another play-off place?
It’s far too early to call that, but according to young goalkeeper Cameron Dawson if they don’t make it that fat, it won’t be for the want of trying. And critical to that will be belief – the belief in the squad that they are capable of succeeding in such a challenge.
"We have got very good players,” he said. “We have those players for a while. They are still good players.
“Would we like to challenge? Of course we would. It is going to be tough. There are a lot of good teams. There are a lot of teams who have invested a lot of money. You look at teams like Stoke who are in the bottom half of the table and I don't see them being in the bottom half come the end.
"We will give it a right good go. We have got some good players in there. We believe in ourselves but maybe we need to believe in ourselves a bit more. We will keep plugging away and trying to win games and see where we get to.”
The last time Wednesday made it to Wembley, they also did it amid low levels of expectation. Carlos Carvalhal had arrived as an unknown, a team was rebuilt with flair and imagination and the quickfire attacking style caught teams on the hop.
It’s not quite like that now, but there are parallels, given Wednesday continue to be overlooked as contenders while all the talk surrounds Middlesbrough – tonight’s opponents at Hillsborough – Leeds United, West Brom and Frank Lampard’s Derby County. Not to mention to the under achievement of Stoke City and Aston Villa
“You look at that first year where we really had a go,” added Dawson. “We went under the radar then and people did not really expect a lot from us. For us it will be trying to follow a similar path to that.
“It is different now with a new regime, but a lot of the same group in there who know how to do it and how to get there and we have to keep plugging away.
“In the last block of games we picked up some good points against good teams and the fans have bought into that and the way we want to play. Hopefully they can stay onside with us.”