Sheffield Wednesday: Lifelong fan Palmer pleased with Owls revival
As Liam Palmer is acutely aware, many owners, managers and players have come and gone in the 17 years he has been on Sheffield Wednesday's books.
It is safe to say the lows have probably outweighed the highs during that period.
As well as being dogged financial troubles, the club hit rock-bottom on the pitch, suffering relegation to League One on two occasions.
A number of people tried without success to halt the club’s decline.
But after years of under-achieving, chairman Dejphon Chansiri and head coach Carlos Carvalhal have brought the feelgood factor back to S6 this season. Thai businessman Chansiri has invested heavily in the playing squad and Carvalhal has turned the Owls into one of the most flamboyant, pleasing on the eye teams in the division.
“The gates haven’t changed, but a lot of things inside have in a positive way, this season particularly,” said Palmer, a lifelong Wednesdayite. “I have seen the ups and downs, a lot of personnel have changed with players and staff but one thing that has never changed is the fans.
“Tuesday night at Brighton, the numbers we had down there, if Nottingham Forest had given us the bottom tier we would have filled it.”
Having slashed ticket prices for this afternoon’s encounter with troubled Charlton Athletic, Wednesday officials are hoping for a 30,000 plus turn-out.
Palmer said: “With the exciting players we have now, the fans are coming in their numbers and we just want to repay them
“The bubble of excitement is going to draw the crowds in, there is an expectation we have put on ourselves.”
Nothing would give lifelong Wednesdayite Palmer greater pleasure than helping the team get back into the Premier League. With nine matches left, Carvalhal’s charges occupy the final play-off position. A top-six berth is in their hands.
“Getting promoted would be a massive achievement,” said Palmer. “All the players must have it in the back of their mind.
“We have been slowly progressing throughout the season, we have that sixth spot, and we want to maintain that.
“Being here, coming through the gates for 17 years, it’s difficult to put into words what promotion would mean to me.
“We got promotion once. It would be good achievement to get a second one.”
In recent weeks, Wednesday have tightened things up at the back, chalking up three clean sheets in their last four outings. Boss Carlos Carvalhal claims he is not bothered about keeping shut-outs, but his side have now racked up 13 in the Championship. It is an impressive tally for a team who have focused far more on scoring goals and entertaining their fans.
If the Owls blunt four more attacks in their final nine fixtures, Carvalhal’s troops will equal the club record of 17 clean sheets in a league season which they achieved under Stuart Gray last season and Jack Charlton’s team 37 years ago. On present form, it looks achievable.
Palmer, who’s first full season with the Owls was at under-nines level, said: “Last season was more focussed on the clean sheets and we knew that would keep us going in the right direction. This season, we want to be a bit more entertaining.
“If that means taking a few more risks, running the extra yard, the manager doesn’t mind as long as it’s paying dividends at the other end.
“We want to keep improving our defensive record each season, but what we have gained at the other end is just as important.”
Against Charlton, Wednesday will be without influential midfielder Barry Bannan after the club failed to get his red card overturned in their victory at Nottingham Forest last week. He starts his three-match ban put a slight dampener on Wednesday’s most convincing victory on the road since Carvalhal’s surprise appointment.
Worksop-born Palmer said: “Baz will be a big loss; he’s one of our main components to get us playing. We have got players ready to step in, though, and fill his boots.”