Speaking with some Sheffield Wednesday players after last week’s morale-boosting victory over Leeds United, there was a recurring theme.
“It’s all about trying to finish the season strong. You don’t want to whimper out,” said Barry Bannan.
“We have got to look at our performances now until the end of the season to kind of put yourself in the frame for next season, probably. It is about pride,” added Tom Lees.
And Sam Hutchinson put it this way: “As players and as a club as a whole we haven’t been good enough this season and fingers crossed we can step up and this last part of the season we can put a run together and have a go. We won’t be giving up, we have got lots to play for. We have pride to play for.”
The distinct realisation that this has been a horror-show of a season for so many reasons, was obvious ... as it should be.
All three of those players missed too much of the campaign, which aligned to the many others spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch, helped to extinguish the hope of a promotion campaign and add oxygen to the smouldering threat of relegation.
The spark is back, though, in a much more positive sense.
It’s fair to say that Wednesday fans want this season over as quickly as possible but that doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case for the players.
That notion of pride is prevalent.
While quotes from footballers can often be taken with a pinch of salt, there was genuine feeling in these particular words.
They know as a group that supporters have been let down this season.
Collectively they have also let themselves down and for those who have been at Hillsborough long enough to have seen much happier times, they don’t want their time at the club to be remembered for this campaign.
A strong finish to the season won’t delete the disappointment felt throughout this season, but it can at least provide hope for another shot.
Should Wednesday go on a run from now, picking up on the rise in mood that has been felt since that win at Elland Road and the continued return of key players whose presence has been sorely missed , then the buzz will be felt all throughout the summer.
There are some who have more selfish reasons for upping their game and ensuring a positive end to the season. Contracts are at stake and more players will be coming back into the squad fit and ready after missing too much this time, so being at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts is also a provider of motivation.
All the signs point to the opportunity of making a silk purse out of this sow’s ear of a season. Wednesday fans deserve to at least have a little more to smile about. To be given the chance to dream again and forget this nightmare.