VIDEO: Sheffield Wednesday skipper Glenn Loovens is a big game hunter
Glenn Loovens has played in showpiece deciders in England and Scotland; in European competition; fought for league titles deep amid the manic rivalry of the Old Firm and, of course, turned out in the Play-Off Final for Sheffield Wednesday.
So when the Owls skipper talks about the importance of the remaining games of this season, as he and his team mates aim to go one better than last year’s disappointment at Wembley, the central defender’s eyes light up.
Loovens admits that he thrives on the big game experience and he can call upon plenty of it throughout his career.
The pressure and expectation of a run-in to, what he hopes, will eventually reap the ultimate reward of ending Sheffield Wednesday’s exile from the top flight of football in this country, is what drives the Dutchman each time he pulls on the shirt and leads his team onto the next challenge.
And that fittingly, on Saturday, comes in the form of one of the Owls’ main threats to a play-off place.
Norwich City head to Hillsborough six points behind Carlos Carvalhal’s men, making this encounter perhaps one of the Canaries’ most crucial of the campaign.
For Wednesday’s part, the match represents the opportunity to get back on the winning trail having lost the previous two on the spin, to Brentford and Leeds United, and shoo-away some of the negativity that has hovered over S6 of late.
A huge game in the context of the season ...just the way Loovens likes it.
“The bigger the game, the bigger occasion, the better I feel,” he told The Star. “It’s what you want, to play in big games and compete for things.
“It can only be a good thing, the more people in the stadium, the expectations, the more you can prove yourself to everyone else. I think you should only relish these moments.”
Having made his senior debut more than 15 years ago, Loovens has plenty of experience that he can pass on.
However, he feels that the squad at Wednesday has enough in that department collectively to be able to deal with the tasks ahead between now and, potentially, the end of May.
“We have loads of experience now in the team, most of them have played on the big stage, in play-off finals and got promoted,” added Loovens, who scored the winner against leaders Newcastle on Boxing Day.
“In that respect if there’s something I can do I will, but we have a good mixture now of players who have done it and younger players as well ...we have a good balance.”
Some of that aforementioned negativity has stemmed in some way from Wednesday’s mercurial rise to prominence in such a short period of time.
They went from a mediocre mid-table Championship side that had dabbled in the third tier, to a swashbuckling footballing force with the help of a dedicated chairman and a hitherto unknown, affable, intelligent and talented head coach.
Fans have been given a taste of the high life and want more, not least because since the arrival of chairman Dejphon Chansiri and Carvalhal, a huge amount has been spent on strengthening the squad.
“People do expect a bit more from us this year because we had such a fantastic season last year,” says Loovens. “Also, with the players that we brought in, that’s normal and how football works. We have to make sure we do it justice.
He added: “Last year, nobody expected anything from us, we were a bit more free-flowing, but teams come here now with a gameplan.
“It’s harder to break teams down. Every year the level of the Championship goes up, it’s harder in this league to win games (than last year). But we have more home games coming up now and that should give us an advantage.”
Among those new additions is multi-million pound striker Jordan Rhodes, who with one goal in six games and a missed penalty against Leeds United last week, has yet to fully produce the form his stunning record at this level proves he is capable of.
However, Loovens has a warning to Championship defences.
“Once he gets going for us I think he will be unstoppable,” said the 33-year-old captain. “I have seen him do that time and time again.
“Of course we need to give him a better service for him to do his part. I am sure him, of all people, will have been gutted at missing the penalty at Leeds. But we do everything as a team. We defend as a team, make mistakes as a team, go forward as a team.”