Alan Biggs at Large: Sheffield Wednesday have the skill and nous to reach Championship play-off final

Carlos Carvalhal celebrates his side securing a play-off place at Ipswich
Carlos Carvalhal celebrates his side securing a play-off place at Ipswich
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Probably a good job no Sheffield Wednesday player or supporter saw what I did last Sunday - a near full-strength Huddersfield Town being crushed by Cardiff City, conceding three goals at home that could have been six.

Optimism around Hillsborough is high and rightly so. That 90 minutes at the John Smith’s Stadium could have sent it too high. But I’m sure it won’t feature among the video clips painstakingly prepared for his players by Carlos Carvalhal and the management team.

Wednesday’s league wins this season over a Huddersfield side palpably saving themselves for the play-offs weren’t like that at all. Canny Carlos will surely look at the how and why of the Owls doing that double during a campaign of exceptionally tight margins.

It is by getting those fractions right that Carvalhal’s team have finished fourth, an exceptional achievement.

The two games against David Wagner’s team were typical of so many. In the away clash back in October, Huddersfield dominated possession (64 per cent v 36 per cent but were edged out by a Fernando Forestieri penalty.

In the Hillsborough meeting of January, Wagner’s men again had more of the ball (54 per cent) and had a man sent off in between goals from Ross Wallace and Forestieri again.

It wasn’t luck that decided those games. Too many have been similar to be a coincidence. Against various opposition, Wednesday, as the head coach puts it, “know what we must do to win.”

Possession means nothing. Goals and clean sheets decide games. Wednesday are well equipped for both, with the tactical nous to achieve them. You’d have to be quietly confident of another Wembley final - potentially in the regal presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.

“When the king comes to a stadium it has a big effect,” says Carvalhal, embracing Ronaldo’s pact with boyhood pal Jose Semedo.

As for the contract kerfuffle, it’s a sideshow, certainly not impacting on the play-offs. The matter surfaced in Portugal with Carvalhal puzzlingly quoted as being “out of contract” which I thought might have been distorted in translation. But to my surprise, he then confirmed this on my Sheffield Live TV show during a dismissal of the recent national newspaper “sacking” story, which still contradicts all the noises around Hillsborough.

For media colleagues to have ignored the issue would have been ludicrous, having been told twelve months ago Carvalhal was signing for three years (later privately changed to one).

But I think it demonstrates that supposed length of contract is largely irrelevant. All that matters is the severance terms, usually 12 months either way.

Maybe Carvalhal, living away from his family in Portugal, was merely showing there are two sides to the coin. A decision for him as well as the club; he’s bound to have options.

But what the episode highlights above all is the unconditional support of the vast majority of fans and their wish for him to stay. Which is healthy. It’s such a big part of the all-important “triangle” he talks about, extending from his strong relationship with the owner.

And I’d suggest that for all Carvalhal’s understandable “hurt” over his earlier treatment by a minority online, that triangle is now very much intact.