Alan Biggs at Large: Why Sheffield Wednesday are my tip for promotion jackpot via the play-off lottery

Carlos Carvalhal
Carlos Carvalhal

Now then Owls fans, the last thing you need is some busybody with a dubious record as a tipster backing you in the play-offs. Trouble is, I’m struggling in that department.

You’d best look away now.

YOU'RE MY MAN: Sheffield Wednesday head coach, Carlos Carvalhal, with owner Dejhon Chansiri

YOU'RE MY MAN: Sheffield Wednesday head coach, Carlos Carvalhal, with owner Dejhon Chansiri

This column is fighting a losing battle to suppress its optimism while knowing that it can’t win either way. Whereas Sheffield Wednesday can.

The safer alternative, of course, is to find a fence to sit on (not normally in short supply on this page) but that’s not really what you want, either, is it?

So we are forced into open ground here. Something very grounded to start with, though. Play-off semi-final opponents Brighton finished 15 points to the good of the Owls; it follows that they have proven themselves to be a better side. Wednesday have to be the underdogs, a tag Carlos Carvalhal was naturally eager to seize almost before his team left the pitch after the qualifying win over Cardiff.

But that is also a reason for fancying them. The better side over a season is not necessarily the better side over two legs; indeed, both league games were draws. And which manager is the better tactician in this sort of scenario? Canny Carlos is up against a much respected and experienced adversary in Chris Hughton. Again, too close to call.

Clearer cut is the obvious psychological advantage of facing a team disappointed to miss out on automatic promotion in the very last game and having just six days to recover – whereas most of Carvalhal’s preferred eleven have had nearly a fortnight’s rest. This is not always of benefit, as international breaks show, but I think the big game test of Cardiff, and the passing of it in emphatic fashion, can be a major plus.

Do Wednesday have a tight team that scraps for each other? Yes, they certainly do. What about match-winners? Well, Fernando Forestieri for starters and Gary Hooper on a timely return to form ahead of a highly creative midfield. Is there a belief among them? Unmistakably.

But it’s just as much the atmosphere surrounding it all, the uplift of the place, the mood of supporters that convinces you Wednesday have a strong chance – and I’d extend that all the way to winning at Wembley. It’s more an instinct, a feeling than anything tangible.

With so much momentum going for a club, why kill it by being gloomy or fearful? If that gets me off the hook, it’s also the key to everything. Far too often and for too long in the modern era there’s been talk of a “fear factor” for the home team at Hillsborough. Gary Megson took it by the throat and now, after progress under Dave Jones and Stuart Gray, Carvalhal has choked it into submission.

That’s why I’m convinced Wednesday are in with a real good shout.