HILLSBOROUGH will not have beeen the only crowded place in these days of destiny for the Owls.
A roomful of media personnel bristling with TV cameras, microphones and notebooks greeted Dave Jones at his pre-match press conference at the training ground.
It lasted 32 minutes and this was no normal game coming up, it was clear.
Jones’s calmness and experience shone through in his replies, which included praise for his players and staff, the view that it is a “fantastic feeling” to be a part of the Wednesday scene just now - and above all the fact that nothing has been taken for granted, and there is still a job to be done: “We know we have another tough game.”
He has been under an end-of-season spotlight before: automatic promotion with Stockport, an escape from relegation with
Southampton, both a near miss and promotion with Wolves in the play-offs, two play-off campaigns with Cardiff.
The manager has been trying to keep the players’ preparation for the Wycombe game as
normal as possible - though knowing there is nothing normal about the prospect of having a 37,000-plus crowd tomorrow comprising almost entirely Wednesday fans, on a day when victory would mean promotion.
“The fans’ expectations have risen, and they’re high. They have been in the doldrums for a long time,” said Jones, who could today also be named League One Manager of the Month for the second successive month.
“It’s nice when you see a club like Sheffield Wednesday with all the emotions that are going to come on Saturday: there’ll be nerves, a lot of trepidation, going into the game.
“Over the last few years those nerves have been caused by something at the other end of the table. This is different.
“Since I have come to the club, the home support has been fantastic, the away support has been unbelievable. Now we’re going to get around 12,000 more than usual, and they’re all our own fans.
“I hope they blow the roof off. I hope we deliver what they want and they have a great day.”
He said Wednesday players have been inundated with requests for tickets for the sell-out game
- another sign of its extraordinary nature.
They were also invited to a champagne function last night - an invitation which was of course turned down.
Monday and Tuesday were mostly about recuperation for the players after last week’s tough game at Brentford - where Player of the Month contender Miguel Llera and Keith Treacy got the goals. Whether to stick with Treacy in the team or recall Jermaine Johnson is one of the questions facing the manager.
It was the usual Wednesday day off for everyone Then it was back to work yesterday and today. “We’ve tried to keep it as normal as possible on the football side,” he said. “What we have to do is try to control the nerves. We need all the calmness, experience and determination; you put it in a big pot and mix it up and hope you’ve come up with the right ingredients.”
Teams and ref
OWLS (possible): Bywater, Buxton, Batth, Llera, Beevers, Antonio, Lines, Semedo, Treacy or J Johnson, Madine, Ranger (4-4-2).
WYCOMBE (possible): Bull, McCoy, Doherty, Johnson, Basey, Eastmond, Lewis, Bloomfield, Grant, Strevens, Beavon (4-4-2).
Colin Webster (Tyne and Wear). Handled the 2-1 defeat at Bury last August. In 37 games this season he has shown 85 yellow cards and seven reds.