Sheffield Wednesday: Lucas Joao out to make sure the future is now

Lucas Joao
Lucas Joao

He arrived with the label of ‘one for the future’ but for Lucas Joao the future is very much now.

The Sheffield Wednesday forward is targeting a place in the Portugal squad for the 2016 European Championships and knows the goals must begin to flow if he has any chance of securing his ticket to France next summer.

The first few months since his summer move from Nacional have delivered mixed results.

A barnstorming performance on full debut against Mansfield Town in the Capital One Cup got supporters excited but outings since have suggested he still has plenty of adapting to do in order to succeed in English football.

Joao went a long way to endearing himself to Wednesdayites with his last gasp goal at Brentford last month.

And what a goal it was. With tenacity he robbed the ball and with composure he strolled forward and slotted confidently past David Button to secure a memorable win on the road.

It was a moment when Joao announced himself as a player with perhaps a little something to offer right now and suggested his dreams of a place in his national team

When he met the media yesterday, the 22-year-old spoke via a translator, with his English still very much in the development phase.

His translator happened to be compatriot Jose Semedo, who offered up his own story about Joao’s first experience of a Hillsborough matchday.

“On the first home game, we were on the bench together,” Semedo said.

“We came out for the warm-up and the stadium was not packed.

“But when we went inside, came back out and there was a lot of people inside, his reaction was like ‘oh my god, this is incredible.’

“I remember his reaction when the Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday started.”

Angolan-born and a Portugal resident since his teens, life in Sheffield was always likely to be an eye-opener for Joao – and as it turns out, particularly life as an Owl.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” Joao said.

“People come up to me in the street asking for a picture or an autograph.

“In Portugal, this only happens if you play for Sporting, Benfica or Porto.

“This is incredible. I feel the excitement of playing for the club. It is a very important thing that this club has it’s massive supporters. The fans are tremendous.

“I just want to play. I want to get on the pitch, score goals and make people happy.

“I feel the passion and I have seen the passion.”

The physicality of English football is something discussed by the majority of players who arrive on these shores from abroad.

For a striker, coming up against robust centre halves, this is a factor which is only exacerbated.

At times Joao has looked to be struggling with the physical nature of the Championship. A bundle of energy, he is however often nullified.

Joao admits he has been working on his strength as he looks to find his feet at Hillsborough.

He said: “The difference about the Portuguese league is that here it is a lot more competitive with more intensity in the game.

“The individual marker is so, so difficult for me as a striker.

“There are less fouls here than in Portugal and there is more contact.

“In Portugal, it looks like you are not allowed to touch.

“Here, you touch and there is no foul.

“You have to be really, really strong.”

The presence of fellow Portuguese Semedo plus, of course, head coach Carlos Carvalhal and his team of staff has made adapting to life in Sheffield much easier for Joao.

The culture shock has been reduced by having people around him who speak his language, aiding his settling-in period and his international ambitions.

Joao has been named in provisional senior squads for Portugal in the past, including for the last international break, so his hopes of a call-up for next summer is not too fanciful.

But he knows that rests entirely on his form for Wednesday over the next seven months.

“It is a possibility for me and I just have to do my job here,” he said. “That is to score goals and help the team get the objectives of reaching the Premier League.

“If this happens, I will be there.”

The future will certainly have arrived if Joao is on the plane to France.