Sheffield Wednesday: Revenge spurs on Owls loan star Daniel Pudil
Two clubs moving in opposite directions collide at Hillsborough tomorrow.
One has a great shot of finishing in the Championship play-offs, the other is scrapping to stay up.
One is progressing on and off the field, the other is a mess.
While Wednesday’s supporters are fully behind chairman Dejphon Chansiri’s revolution, Charlton’s fans have protested against owner Roland Duchatelet for the vast majority of the campaign.
At S6, Carlos Carvalhal, a surprise choice to succeed Stuart Gray as head coach last summer, has won over his critics. The Portuguese chief’s attractive brand of football has wowed supporters and made him a popular figure on the terraces.
In just over two years since buying Charlton, Duchatelet has appointed six managers. That lack of stability has certainly added to the growing unrest and negative vibe surrounding the club.
The Addicks fans have repeatedly voiced their displeasure over the way the club is being run run by Belgian owner Duchatelet, prompting them to stage a mock funeral outside The Valley before Sunday’s surprise 2-0 win over Middlesbrough.
Hundreds of inflatable beach balls were also thrown on to the pitch and a mass walkout took place in the 74th minute, representing the amount of goals they have shipped in this season.
In front of the Sky cameras, referee Darren Deadman was forced to stop the match on three occasions, including when whistles were blown from the home crowd, which halted a dangerous Boro attack.
The demonstrations received worldwide coverage and were all aimed at Duchatelet.
Despite Charlton languishing 23rd in the table, five points shy of safety, the beauty of the second-tier is it is a thoroughly unpredictable, crazy division.
One of Wednesday’s poorest performances under Carvalhal came against the Addicks last November. Before the third international break, the Owls produced a tired-looking display, sliding to a 3-1 loss. The margin of their defeat could have been heavier had Charlton brought their shooting boots.
“We owe Charlton a little bit of payback,” left-back Daniel Pudil told The Star. “Our performance wasn’t right and was really bad that day.
“We were on a good run when we went there. It was just before the international break and we had gone quite a few games unbeaten.
“We didn’t start well and we found it hard to comeback into the game.
“We have to do much better than what we did when we last played them. If we can get the first goal, then the crowd can help us win the game.”
After a five-match winless streak, Wednesday returned to winning ways in style last Saturday, brushing aside mid-table Nottingham Forest three goals to nil.
Aiden McGeady grabbed the opener, claiming his first goal in Owls colours. It has been a tricky transitional period for the winger since arriving on a temporary basis from Everton in February but the Republic of Ireland international appears to be getting back to his best.
Pudil said: “I was really happy for Aiden. It has been quite hard for him because he didn’t play for five months or so. It is quite difficult to get up to speed but now he is showing everyone what he can do.
“Aiden is a really good player and I am very happy he is here with us because he can make the difference in games. He’s a similar player to Fernando [Forestieri]. Aiden can go one v one and go past players. He has a great shot on him and hopefully his confidence is back after his strike at Forest and he can show everyone how good a player he is.”
Questions were raised over Wednesday’s top-six credentials following a poor run of results. Was Pudil ever concerned about their mini slump?
“We never lost our confidence even when we went a few games without a win,” stressed the defender. “We played against some good sides and didn’t get the points our performances merited.
“We didn’t play well in the first half versus Rotherham but we deserved something from our second half performance.
“But Forest are a good side so obviously our confidence has gone up since beating them. Everyone was sharp from the first second and we dominated the game even when we went down to 10 men.
“It was a great win and we are looking to build on it now.
“We have got nine games left and everyone will be really important. We have to treat them like a final and go game by game.”
Carvalhal will have to make one enforced change to his starting line-up this weekend as Barry Bannan is banned for the next three matches after his sending off at the City Ground. Sam Hutchinson, Alex Lopez and Lewis McGugan are vying to fill the midfield void.
Pudil is confident Wednesday possess the strength in depth to cope without Bannan.
“It is a big blow for us that Barry is out but we still have one of the best midfields in the league,” said the 30-year-old, who started his career at Slavia Prague.
“We have a lot of competition with the likes of Aiden, Ross Wallace, Kieran Lee and Sam Hutchinson and it is a pleasure for me to play alongside these guys.
“I’m sure whoever will come in for Barry will play well.”