Prevailing in a public stand-off with your star player is one thing. Ensuring it doesn’t damage team spirit is another. Achieving both – the first is tough enough – is outstanding management. And coming from behind to win in two successive home games is surely proof positive of that togetherness.
It doesn’t necessarily mean Sheffield Wednesday will be promoted this season. But it strongly suggests yet again that the team is in good hands under Carlos Carvalhal.
Just how good came home to this column in a chat with former player Matt Hamshaw, who suggested that the dressing room of his time would not have stood for a player, no matter how good, refusing to play.
The subject occurred because Hamshaw’s first away trip with the Owls was the day a certain Benito Carbone stormed off back to Sheffield after being told he would not start a Premier League game at Southampton. Hamshaw’s final season, after seven years with the club, coincided with promotion from League One in 2005.
That team, managed by Paul Sturrock and skippered by current assistant boss Lee Bullen, was arguably the tightest unit of modern times – until now perhaps and a team that Carvalhal prides first and foremost on unity.
It’s a tough act with some players earning well over £30,000 a week and the latest signing, Urby Emanuelson, having made a point of announcing that he was part of that elite group. Somewhere in or around it, either secretly entering a new deal or preferably having been promised it if he gets his head down, is Fernando Forestieri.
The striker’s first goal since his refusal to play and rapid return to the fold was a match-winner against Wigan last Saturday. But it was worth way more than three points in terms of symbolic importance. Forestieri’s part in a team effort lauded by the head coach spoke of any rifts being healed as did the communal celebration of his goal.
I don’t normally highlight tweets from players but make an exception for this one. Barry Bannan: “Buzzing to see the main man @Forestieri45 on the scoresheet again.”
Main man! Spoken by as selfless a team player, on and off the pitch, as you’ll find. You’d guess he speaks for the side as a whole. A side that, with Forestieri relegated to the bench and coming on, achieved a remarkable comeback from two-down for a 3-2 win over Bristol City on Tuesday. Reconciliation can’t have been easy considering Hamshaw’s insistence that any such antics during his time would have been “frowned upon” by other players.
“It wouldn’t have happened in our dressing room,” he said. “People will always earn different amounts but the common thread for me is promotion. I never sat in a changing room and thought ‘if I get promotion I’ll get more money.’ I wanted to get promotion because I wanted to be the best I could be. Some players aren’t like that but the majority are - and that’s the way it should be. As a manager, it’s crucial to bring in players of that mind set.”
Hamshaw, now head of academy coaching at Rotherham, is clearly impressed with the way his former club have brought Forestieri into line and the star’s response, adding: “He’s a top, top player - a great player in that league.”
I notice Ross Wallace was back starting last week, and then on from the bench midweek, after my suggestion here last week that Carvalhal had slapped down a tantrum. Good management, indeed.