Try as he might, Jacques Maghoma struggled to win over the Sheffield public.
Much was expected of the versatile Democratic Republic of Congo international after he moved to Hillsborough on a free transfer in 2013.
He had just enjoyed the best season of his professional career at Burton Albion, hitting 18 goals in their march to the play-offs, culminating in him being named in the PFA League Two team of the season. It appeared a shrewd piece of business by ex-Owls chief Dave Jones.
However, for all his nimble footwork and clever twists and turns, Maghoma lacked end product in the final third. In 66 appearances for the Owls, he bagged just four goals.
While commentating for BBC Radio Sheffield, Owls legend Carlton Palmer once questioned Maghoma’s work rate, branding him a “lazy” player.
“I have always worked hard but Carlton [Palmer] said I was lazy at the beginning of my first season and it got in people’s heads,” Maghoma told The Star. “It didn’t hurt me what he said, but it stuck in people’s minds and they didn’t see my other qualities.
“I know I was criticised a lot at Wednesday and people said I was lazy but I didn’t pay attention to it. If people look at the stats, I was probably in the top five for most tackles and ball retention last season.”
It came as no surprise to the 27-year-old when he was informed at the start of May that Wednesday planned on releasing him at the end of his contract.
He said: “Nothing surprises you in football. I played a lot of games under Stuart Gray. I wanted to stay. It’s a big club with some great fans but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It was a bit stop-start at Wednesday. In my first season, I got injured in pre-season and I then got injured at Wigan away after clashing with their goalkeeper so that kept me out for a number of months.
“I put in a lot of good performances last year and I started over 30 games so that was great. I would have liked to have scored more goals but, as much as I tried, it wasn’t meant to be.
“I enjoyed my two years with Wednesday but there were probably times when I could have played better.
“They say things happen for a reason and it’s time for me to move on and get my career back on track.”
Former Tottenham Hotspur trainee Maghoma signed a two-year deal with Birmingham City on Friday, with an option for a further year.
The move sees him reunited with Blues boss Gary Rowett, who he played under for four years at Burton. He credits Rowett with helping him become a Championship footballer and sees no reason why they can’t push for a play-off finish next season.
“It is the best possible move for me because I worked under Gary [Rowett] for a long time at Burton,” he said. “He got the best out of me so I thought it would be great for me to work with him again.
“Gary knows the type of character that I am and he was one of the main factors behind me coming here. It helps that the manager has got trust in me and feels that he can get the best out of me. It gives you confidence on the pitch.
“You are not going to go through a full season playing well, week in week out. There will be some games where you don’t play your best.
“I am very self critical so when somebody believes in you, it gives you a boost and confidence to go into the next game believing that you are a match-winner.
“Birmingham ended the season on a high. They finished 10th so hopefully I can bring something to the table and push them up up the table.”
It is all change for Maghoma and the Owls this summer. It was just over a fortnight ago Wednesday axed Gray as head coach.
He said: “I was pretty shocked Stu [Gray] lost his job and didn’t get the chance to take them into next season. I thought he did a great job with a small squad.
“I thought he would get more years to try and take Wednesday to the next level. I think he probably would have done.
“I don’t what happened but the chairman knows what he wants to do so hopefully it will work out for them.”