Despite having to sit out the next three matches, Fernando Forestieri is in no danger of losing the mantle of “the man most likely to” at Sheffield Wednesday for the second successive season.
But he does leave the stage to one player capable of emulating his talent for tipping tight matches.
If the Owls are to turn Forestieri’s suspension into an opportunity rather than a problem, Lucas Joao is the man who can grab it.
I say man rather than youngster because, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s turned 23 and should be converting his talent into consistent performances.
Happily, there are signs of him doing just that. Joao has toughened up considerably from the striker who was reduced to tears after knocking a tooth out in one of his earlier games and is also a “better team player,” as Carlos Carvalhal has noted.
Add to this the removal of his head from the clouds after the Angola-born front man started to believe in his own publicity.
And yet, ironically, we have reached a point where perhaps Joao should allow himself to dream just a little. To imagine himself being THE main man when it comes to match-winning exploits.
Games against Reading, Barnsley and Rotherham represent his big chance to seize both the spotlight and the regular place his two comeback displays suggest he can nail down.
Ideally, Joao has had to be capable of playing either of two roles – as the main striker (as he was with Forestieri alongside him against Preston) or OFF the main striker. It seems he is coming to terms with the physical demands of the first but it’s probably more in the second that he can fully showcase his skills.
Maybe there’s an opening for that with Joao playing off Steven Fletcher? In the two home matches, at least.
All of which, and the climb back into the top six, doesn’t make Forestieri’s suspension any less frustrating – or unnecessary – with a petulant act mothballing him just as he was buzzing back to his best.
But knocks bring opportunities, so to speak. Will it knock for George Hirst soon? I think he’s been a little closer to the first team bench than anyone realises.