Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Flight of the Owls VI

The flight of The Owls continues as Sheffield Wednesday achieved a place in the playoffs for the second season in a row! It’s been another roller coaster season for the Blue and White Wizards but we’ve managed to pull it out the bag again, despite some tricky competition for places.

The playoff spot was guaranteed after our 1-0 win over Ipswich on Saturday, Keiran Lee marking his return from injury by scoring the only goal of the game in the 77th minute. It was a smart finish that actually brings his tally for the season to 5 in 25. 1 goal in every 5 games from midfield is a pretty good return considering he was signed as a right back.

Will Keiran Lee's return from injury be pivotal in the playoffs?
Last season we managed to get to the playoff final at Wembley, seeing off this season’s Champions, Brighton, in the semis. Losing to Hull in the final was a bitter pill to swallow, it was made all the worse for me that it was one of the most boring games of football I’ve ever witnessed. If I was a Wednesday fan I’d have switched it off…

I was really surprised by how boring it was considering how exciting our last two fixtures against Hull turned out. The playoff final had two sides who liked to knock the ball about, defended well and had the attacking force to put it in the net. But with the added pressure of the occasion you can understand why no one took any risks...it was only ever going to be a wonder goal to win it…

This season I think came as a bit of a surprise to most Wednesday fans. When you consider our possession style of player and our deadliness in front of goal, you’d think we had the perfect beginning to build from...but sadly the style of play from last year is almost gone, with Carlos Carvalhal seemingly more concerned about the result than looking pretty.

We still have that deadliness in front of goal with the likes of Hooper, Forestieri and new additions Rhodes, Fletcher and Winnall but I’ve not been enjoying the chopping and changing of the squad every week, especially the lads up top. In my opinion these players could score you 20 or more goals a season at this level if given a good run of games. But then again Carvalhal must be doing something right because this is our highest league finish since being relegated from the Premier League.

We are currently 4th in the league on 81 points, two places higher than last season and 7 points better off. I’ve seen some fans actually complaining that last season was better than this one! Their argument being that although we may have won more games, we have scored less goals and unless we score 7 goals against Fulham, it’s probably gonna stay that way.

Those fans seem to think that if you play good football the result will come but I think that Arsenal are proof that that isn’t the case anymore. Leicester at the back end of last season are proof that sometimes grinding out a result is better than looking pretty...I think those Owls fans just wish Wednesday’s ‘grind results’ tactic wasn’t ‘plan A’

But anyway moving on, I’d like to talk about the squad. Specifically who I think has done well this term and I’d like to start with Sam Hutchinson. For me, the tough tackling, big quiffed behemoth is without doubt our player of the year. Starting out this season at centre half, he actually looked better than Tom Lees which is no small task. He then moved back into central midfield where he was so sorely missed.

Look at the passion in this blokes eye's! Definitely my SWFC Player of the Year

I’ve seen some fans say he hasn’t played enough games to warrant a player of the year nomination but for me 32 games is definitely enough and when you make on average 2.3 tackles and 2.7 interceptions per game, the player of the year award would be very much deserved.

Another consistent performer for the Owls over the years is Keiren Westwood and this season is no different. He may not be making impossible saves like he did in the 2015 season but he is still putting in the same level of performances, keeping the back line well organised and just all round being an absolute beast between the sticks. His performances warrant Premier League football, I just hope that he gets there with Wednesday.

Ross Wallace deserves a huge mention. A player who is always first to receive criticism and last to receive praise, he’s been a huge player for us in the second half of the season with his pinpoint deliveries and attacking threat. I can’t believe how good this lad’s been, he’s proof that a good winger doesn’t need pace, that a sweet delivery is more important.

Jack Hunt has really turned a corner since January, it helps that Carlos stopped rotating him with Palmer. Pudil has also had a little turn around in January, putting in a similar level of performances as he did in his loan spell with us last year...I still think that £3 million is a little pricey for a full back in the Championship.

Another top quality player is Keiran Lee who has been out injured for a number of months and, coming back at the most important part of the season. This will be like a new signing for Wednesday. I just wish he was a little more well known...I’m sick of Googling his name and it bringing up the famous porn actor “Keiran Lee”...I almost feel obliged to have a wank every time...

Lastly I want to talk about Jordan Rhodes. I was a little disappointed at his goal return since moving to us in February, 3 goals in 17 games is not a great return for a striker with a price tag as hefty as his. My one hope for Rhodes is that if we do sign him next year he’ll come good with a good preseason under his belt. Fingers crossed.

The PFA Championship team of the year was announced and unsurprisingly no Sheffield Wednesday players were included. Not that our players have been bad but none have been stand out and most of them have been rotated in and out of the squad for most of the season. The only one I think could have made it into the team is Westwood but I wouldn’t say he was a definite for the team over Stockdale.

Lastly I want to talk about the playoffs and how I think the Mighty Owls will fare. The four clubs that look to be in there are Reading, Huddersfield, Fulham and of course Wednesday. There is still a chance for Leeds to get in but would need a 13 goal swing for that to happen…

Who do you think is most likely to go up?
In third are Reading. Now despite being the highest in the league I think most people wouldn’t make them the favourites for the playoffs but they could be a bit of a surprise package. They’re a side that know what to do in the playoffs and could be a dark horse in this years competition.

Behind The Wednesday is Huddersfield, the side that came closest to knocking Newcastle out of the Automatic spots before crumbling to fifth. With the run these are on, they have little chance of winning the playoffs, Wagner deserves huge praise for what he’s done with Huddersfield but I think promotion will be a step too far.

Finally in 6th we have Fulham. All I’ve heard going into the playoffs is how good Fulham are, a side with the ability to rip the top sides apart with little ease but I keep thinking ‘if they’re that good, they’d have got automatic’. But with form and ability taken into consideration I think The Cottagers have the best chance in the playoffs

Now depending where we finish we could get Fulham in either the semifinals or of course in the final. Over the two legs I think the London club would have the advantage, depending on how Saturday’s game goes there could be a psychological advantage in the semis. If the two sides meet in the final however, I feel the occasion would get to Fulham’s heads like they did with us last year and we will take advantage of that as we know how to get an ugly win.

Anyway that’s all for today’s post, I hope you all enjoyed it. For anyone who is interested in how I got on last Saturday (I know at least one person must be), my side Snydale Athletic lost 5-2 which is a painful result to take considering I’ve not lost in the previous four games...at least I did this pretty picture.

Keiran Lee's 98th minute winner against Rotherham in 2015
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Cheers for reading.

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