Alan Biggs: Sense of perspective needed in Sheffield Wednesday's promotion push
There are times when a team and crowd need to meet each other halfway. Such a time and place is Hillsborough on Saturday.
Is it the team that lifts the crowd? Or the crowd that lifts the team? Yes, that old chestnut. Sheffield Wednesday need a bit of both against one of their pursuers, Norwich City, to cement that coveted place in the top six and kick on to where many of us think they should be, a couple of positions higher.
The exuberance and togetherness that provided such momentum last season, and earlier in this one, is under threat. You can understand the restlessness because that’s football, folks, and you don’t need to have occupied a press box or a stand seat for many years to have seen it all before (including the cowardly social media abuse brilliantly slapped down by some supporters with higher profiles and values).
But a sense of perspective dictates that the pessimism, bordering panic, that follows any setback is entirely misplaced. Not least for the good of the players and the majority who hold back on their emotions and check the league table. If the season were to end right here, that’s another shot at promotion - even if it wouldn’t instantly represent progress given the level of expenditure.
Look at other teams. None, with the exception of Huddersfield, is exactly tearing up the turf. Brighton rallied with a fine 3-0 win over Reading, who are slipping back, and then lost to Newcastle. Margins are typically tight in the Championship. Only two games last weekend were decided by more than the odd goal. The Owls could have been winners rather than narrow losers but for costly aberrations marring a decent performance at Leeds, where I thought they were just the better side.
Hopefully the mood will be more temperate on Saturday with three of the next four games at home.
But here’s where Carlos Carvalhal and his team can re-connect with the crowd and warm the climate. The way Wednesday start games surely has to be of concern to the head coach whether he says so or not.
It will not be by design but the fact is the Owls are creating a damaging vacuum. Frustration fills the void and encourages the opposition. Only the Birmingham game of recent times, which finished 3-0, has been any different.
A slow start, admittedly by both teams, was also in evidence at Leeds where Wednesday still engineered first half attacks with players strung across the field and only one, Jordan Rhodes, consistently in the area. Rhodes’ early record shows just one goal in six games and a missed penalty which, ahead of his substitution, was his own fault. But – as pointed out here last week – the near guaranteed goal-man is getting little or no service.
Without that, he’s not worth £800,000, let alone £8m.
There are concerns at the back, too, although the main focus will always be on gaining more output from expensive firepower. You sense more opportunity and a different dynamic in the Norwich game with an opposition that has to come for the win.
And let’s finish where we started. Sixth spot without shining. As long as you can hang on to that, you have a season worth hanging on for.