Sheffield Wednesday need to make the most of ‘clear run’ opportunity they’ve not had in some time - Alex Miller's column

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Where were you when the news broke and a cloud lifted from over Hillsborough last summer?

The chances are you were in a boozer, grasping a half-empty pint pot and nervously chattering about Jack Grealish. Or in a mate’s front room asking Alexa to turn up Baddiel and Skinner.

Because it wasn’t until July 7 – or thereabouts – that the transfer embargo was lifted on Sheffield Wednesday and when the Darren Moore rebuild after half a squad had been released could truly begin. The news broke in the minutes before England played Denmark in the semi-final of Euro 2020.

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Sheffield Wednesday's pre-season run-in can look a lot different to those of pre-seasons past.Sheffield Wednesday's pre-season run-in can look a lot different to those of pre-seasons past.
Sheffield Wednesday's pre-season run-in can look a lot different to those of pre-seasons past.

This writer found out in Cardiff, a few lemonades deep, literally 10 minutes or so before the national anthems.

As that anthem rang round the boozer to the boos of more than a few ruddy-faced Welshmen, calls were made and the laptop was out. The first 10 minutes were spent tapping away and looking downwards, away from the big screen.

Sure, they were working on the basis of frees and loanees only, but Wednesday were free from the shackles and open for business.

Why watch the biggest England match of my lifetime in Wales of all places? Is any of this relevant? What on earth are you talking about?

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I was there to cover Wednesday’s pre-season clash with Celtic, a match that ended 3-1. It was a match during which I spent a good deal of time Googling who on earth some of the players wearing blue and white were. Half the squad were teenage trialists there to make up the numbers.

A question to Moore about how difficult a situation he had found himself in got a typically positive answer, but the puffed-cheeks initial response told its own tale.

It was two months after the Owls’ relegation from the Championship had been confirmed at Pride Park and the rest of the Football League, save for a handful of others still performing puppy eyes on the naughty step, had been given a couple of months head start on picking up the finest bargains available.

Wednesday – and Darren Moore – had watched targets apologise and sign elsewhere and were a long way behind the eight ball. It makes their work in building a squad many had down as the best in League One last season all the more impressive.

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So late it was that the majority of their signings arrived, was it such a mystery the likes of George Byers, Marvin Johnson and Lee Gregory had huge improvements in the second half of the season? Or that it took such a long time for Moore to settle on anything like a consistent side?

Circumstances had gone against the set-up when they most needed time to gel. The carnage of the short summer break after the coronavirus-ravaged 2019/20 season was similar – Josh Windass’ signing was held up by payment issues, and a number of others arrived late.

The season before, Wednesday had to wait to announce the signings of Kadeem Harris, Moses Odubajo and Julian Borner as they wriggled free from a separate embargo.

This time? There is no such issue. Those shackles are removed and the club strikes as an attractive option once again.

The Owls can head into pre-season ready and fuss-free.