Teams have stayed up from worse positions, but Sheffield Wednesday survival would be a monumental feat from here

If Sheffield Wednesday stay up this season, whether they are led by Neil Thompson or somebody else, it’s no exaggeration to suggest it will be one of the finest managerial feats in the club’s 153-year history.

Saturday, 27th February 2021, 8:00 pm
Sheffield Wednesday players during the latter stages of their 3-2 defeat at Luton Town.

February 27 will be a date spoken about as a cornerstone date whatever happens. If the Owls go down, it may well be seen as the day the music died. If they stay up, it will be the afternoon from which the remarkable feat was spun back from.

Because to go two-nil up and lose is one thing. To go two-nil up and lose in the manner that they did is something entirely different. They were dominant in the first half, they were front foot, dangerous, containing of everything Luton threw at them.

In Josh Windass they had a forward playing with anger, leading the line with his teeth showing, others following suit. After three defeats on the bounce, after the criticism they faced for a fairly passive outing at Brentford in the week, they were showing something they hadn’t shown for a while.

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Indeed the conversation at the break was whether this was the turning point to safety and whether the honest angry words shared at full-time in midweek were to be the catalyst of a great escape. If Wednesday had walked back into the Kenilworth Road changing rooms four-nil up at the break, nobody could have fairly suggested it flattered them.

Such was the swagger of that first 45, it would have been a cheap shot to suggest what followed was inevitable. But in hindsight, perhaps those half-time conversations were naive. When Luton got their first, the Owls ‘reverted to type’ as Neil Thompson put it. They folded like a Primark three-piece.

Do Wednesday players care? Yes. Are they trying to do the right things? Of course. But for some reason they seem unable to carry out under pressure, time and again falling to feather-spine mistakes and weak application. The culture criticised by several previous managers is back.

We saw it at Rotherham, at Forest and at Huddersfield. It happened at Norwich and at Coventry, against Birmingham and at Millwall. The evidence suggests that either this is a squad that simply isn’t good enough to win tight matches or that they don’t have the bottle or the culture or whatever you want to call it.

Luton deserve credit. Nathan Jones’ triple substitution at the break changed the course of the game. Harry Cornick and Pelly Mpanzu are hugely skillful footballers. But they’re not Ballon D’or nominees.

Those inside it have admitted from time to time that the Sheffield Wednesday changing room is a fragile beast.

Now there are 14 matches left in this Championship season and there are 42 points to play for. They’re six points back. Sides have stayed up from far, far worse positions.

But given that fragility and given the nature of the defeat at Kenilworth Road this weekend, the fact may well be that any manager who can keep them up will have done something truly special. Afternoons such as this leave scars on sides with thicker skin.

What’s the answer? If Thommo or anyone else can find that between now and the middle of May, it’ll be a feat up there with those of Howard and Ron.



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