What Sheffield Wednesday would give for another memorable derby day.
When the Owls last collided with Rotherham United, they prevailed in the most dramatic of fashions, scoring two goals in added on time to complete an extraordinary turnaround.
It was one of the stand-out results of Stuart Gray’s reign and Kieran Lee’s matchwinner sparked wild celebrations, including a mad 30 yard dash down the touchline by Paul Smith. Wednesday’s head of physio Smith simply could not contain his joy and it was reminiscent of Jose Mourinho’s famous charge in 2004 after his Porto side grabbed a last-minute winner against Manchester United.
“Our physio Paul Smith would be delighted with the same outcome and everyone would be delighted to see that sprint again,” said Wednesday club captain Glenn Loovens with a big grin on his face at yesterday’s press briefing.
“Every derby is special and brings different emotions to the fans which we have to deal with. They are always great to play in so I am looking forward to it and hopefully we can get the three points again.”
Much has changed since these two sides last met. Gone have managers Gray and Steve Evans, replaced by Carlos Carvalhal and Neil Redfearn respectively, while both club’s playing personnel have been significantly overhauled.
Tonight’s televised contest will only be Redfearn’s third match in charge.
“Where they (Rotherham] are in the table probably doesn’t do them justice,” argued Loovens. “I have seen them in a couple of games and they have played quite good football. They recently changed their manager so it will be a tough game.
“Everyone starts from the scratch when a club brings in a new manager. The people who haven’t playing are desperate to show him that they are good enough to play.
“They are second from bottom but that will make them fight even harder for this game.
“But I am not too bothered about them. We have to look at our own game and how we approach it.”
Nearly two years have passed since Loovens moved to Hillsborough and the straight-talking Dutchman reckons he is in the best shape of his Owls career following a spell out of the side.
He said: “I had some injury problems at the end of last year and beginning of this season but the last six weeks have given me time to get fit.
“I want to play every single game but I needed some time off to get myself really fit as I have been struggling with injuries for six to seven months. Now I can train a full week which I wasn’t able to do before.
“I have definitely felt the difference and it has done me good. This is the best I have felt physically in my three seasons with the club.”
In recent weeks, Carvalhal has overlooked Loovens, pairing Michael Turner and Tom Lees together at the heart of Wednesday’s rearguard.
Tuesday’s draw at Queens Park Rangers was Loovens’ first Championship start since September 12.
Loovens said: “As a player, you want to play every single game but it is the way he [Carvalhal] works. One game you are the playing, the next you are in the stands.
“One thing it does is it keeps everyone on their toes. It took a few weeks and months but now we are used to it (squad rotation) and everybody is happy with it.
“The games are coming thick and fast so it is good that we have a big strong squad. Our manager will use it wisely. As we saw at QPR, he changed seven players and I think he will do the same again for Rotherham.”
With Turner ruled out by a knee problem, Loovens is keen to impress.
“It is really sad for Michael [Turner] that he is injured but it opens up an opportunity for me to step back in,” he said. “That’s how is works in football so I have to make sure I perform.”
Loovens, troubled by an ankle problem earlier in the campaign, is convinced the Owls are heading in the right direction under Carvalhal.
“We had 15 new players come in over the summer,” said Loovens, who began his footballing odyssey with Feyenoord in his native Holland. “Even when we started the league, we had another four or five new players come in so we were still looking for the right balance for the team which took us a couple of games.
“But I think we have found that now and everybody is happy at the moment.
“We are on a great run and using pretty much everyone in the squad so we are in a good way.”