I’ve been considering writing a Wednesday piece for a few weeks now, but I wanted to see how we faired in the run-up to the first international break of the season. Like most, if not all Wednesday fans, I felt our opening run of games offered a great opportunity for us to get points on the board, and to make a statement with our performances, but what has transpired hasn’t been good enough. Something which current caretaker manager Lee Bullen publicly accepts.
I want to make a few points where Lee is concerned. Lee’s someone who has been a massive help to me, and any charity efforts I or others have going on. He’s a diamond of a bloke, and he truly is Wednesday through and through. It’s clear for all to see. He’s stepped into the caretaker role several times at the club, without hesitation, and takes the pressure and everything else which comes with that.
Whether fans think Lee is or isn’t the man for the job, there’s a right way and a wrong way to express an opinion. Lee deserves respect for what he’s done at Sheffield Wednesday first as a player, then since returning to the club after hanging up his boots. I think he’s in an unfair situation in many respects. As a caretaker manager, the pressure is on game to game, and as caretaker manager at Wednesday, even more so.
I think it’s also worth remembering that Steve Bruce left us in the lurch, with his two coaches heading to Tyneside with him. I felt if Lee were to have an extended run, he would need a coaching team with him. Neil Thompson is a capable first-team coach, and so is Nicky Weaver, but I think Lee may have been sold short by the chairman. The club from a managerial point of view shouldn’t have been in limbo for this long and should have equipped Lee better.
I’ve always believed football is about winning first, with positive performances generally following consequently. You’re not going to win loads of games and play below par in the majority. Right now, I’d be perfectly happy for Wednesday to shithouse their way to a playoff place this season, as it would at least give supporters something to cheer.
Right now, what’s being served up at Wednesday concerns me, and this is because, for the most part, the same group of players have for some reason delivered similar under Carlos, Jos, Steve Agnew, Steve Bruce and Lee Bullen. I understand that players and teams generally will have off days, but we seem to slide into this malaise and can’t get ourselves out of it.
When playing at Hillsborough, I feel the best game plan we can have is to be high energy, high tempo. If we tear into teams and get after them, supporters will create a buzz, and that will lift the players and give them confidence. Slow and insipid football will not get us anywhere, and it certainly won’t create a buzz for the Wednesday fans in attendance.
While there is a need for us to be aware of our opponent’s, the threats they pose, and of course their weaknesses, I don’t think that should stop us pressing more and giving more in terms of effort. Fast starts, desire and honesty, should on the menu every game, regardless of opposition, it’s the bare minimum in my book.
We can begin to establish an identity as a team, something I feel we lack and have lacked for a while. Why can’t we be known as a hard-working, high press, high tempo, high energy side? None of this comes down to ability. It comes down to character and desire. Again, are these components something we lack and have lacked for several seasons?
When things begin to go against us on the pitch, the frustration shows, you’ll often see players with their arms aloft or giving each other a bit of stick. I get it, it’s understandable, but I look around sometimes and question where the leaders are. Have we got players who have the balls to handle Sheffield Wednesday, especially when things aren’t going well?
I must point out that we win, draw and lose as a team. This blame culture which has developed, where individual players become scapegoats for the team’s failings, isn’t doing anyone any good. I believed that fans would back players if they give 100%, and in some cases, they do, but in others, they don’t. Often players become nervous and scared to make mistakes.
If it’s an honest mistake, I’m ok with that, especially from a player who is giving their all for the shirt. Morgan Fox is a prime example. He’s a player who, for the most part, delivers the honesty and desire we need. When he makes an error, some fans can’t wait to jeer him. Don’t beat the lads down, somehow, even though it may be hard; we’ve got to find a way to stand together.
I mentioned leaders above, and the club does need more leadership from the top. As a club, we must improve and do more to enable the footballing side to be successful. Wednesday’s failure to sell footballers has cost us repeatedly, and we’re paying the price now. We’re still trying to achieve success with many of the players from the time under Carlos. Wednesday haven’t progressed, we have a slight bounce and then regress.
Under Steve Bruce, I, like many others, was very optimistic. Not because I thought we were, therefore, going to storm to the Premier League, but because he’s an experienced manager who knows how to manage a football club. Wednesday need structure, and proper people in position. I understand Steve’s recruitment staff are still in place, and that’s great, but why didn’t we do more business out?
I don’t want to be someone overreacting to several bad performances and defeats, but maybe we’re in an era where we need someone to come in and completely sort the club out. The chairman ideally will give the manager the power to make the changes necessary to get the club firmly back on track.
Finally, on the managerial situation, I feel an appointment must happen in the international break. Maybe, we need a manager to come in who will get the players well-drilled, organised and together. We can do a lot better than what we’re showing and what we’ve shown for several years.