Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday column: Getting Owls into top flight is a two season job
Strange to say considering Steve Bruce’s initial impact but arguably the kindest run of games he had at Sheffield Wednesday came right at the end of last season.
Bruce’s Owls won only two of the last eight to finish 10 points adrift of the play-offs in 12th place, slap bang in the middle of the Championship.And looking across the whole campaign I think few would argue that this was about right. Certainly, an entirely predictable position for much of it.I think it gives a far more realistic backdrop to the task ahead than if Wednesday had finished just short of the top six, which was a genuine outside target at one stage.And considering the long overdue process of freshening the squad, involving the around £6m sale of Lucas João, more speculation of a move for Jordan Rhodes and pre-deadline signing possibilities including Michael Hector as this was being written.Bruce is gone but there was always the danger of him starting a bit too well for his own good, potentially a victim of his own success further down the road.More to the point, the same applied to his club. Fortunately, I think expectations for this season are level-headed and it would have been no different had Bruce stayed.But his departure has further levelled those hopes, which may be no bad thing. And, having had my say on the manner of his exit before drawing a line, you have to admit Bruce got the squad in good shape, not least in fitness for this season.I reckon just about everyone, including the most optimistic supporter, understands that a thrust into the promotion frame has to be a hope rather than an outright demand.There is a huge difference between the two and it is not being negative to point that out. In fact, Sheffield United’s elevation to the Premier League makes it more relevant rather than less.Naturally the success of their rivals has put Wednesday under pressure to follow suit, adding to a sense of urgency around S6.But it would be a mistake to use it as a gauge for judgment on anyone at the club if the ground cannot be made up this time.Owner Dejphon Chansiri will want promotion, as he has in all four of his previous seasons. Nothing wrong with that. But I think he is a loyal man at heart and, as long as the fans retain faith in whoever is manager, he will act accordingly.Of course, we shouldn’t even be talking like this about anyone just into the job, Lee Bullen if he gets it, for instance - except that football is such a volatile business that a single season is as much as managers get in many cases.Cards on the table, I feel that getting the Owls into the top flight from here is a two season job. I don’t rule it out for the coming campaign but would be pleasantly surprised in that event.Bruce had the stature and respect to give him a much better chance than most. But he was less than two windows into the job of turning around an ageing, bloated squad. It’s a job that remains to be done for all the experience and quality at the heart of it that gives the Owls a chance of competing well.January will provide a chance to take things further and correct the course if needed. But it could require a fourth window, next summer, to fine tune things. As ever, wiser and more balanced trading is absolutely vital and it’s great to see a start made on that.For the present, the Owls won’t shy away from what all clubs of their stature ARE expected to do - try to compete. There’ll be understandable disappointment if Wednesday aren’t knocking on the door of the top six.But there has to be a sense of perspective outside of that as to how long could be required.Given that most people are on board with that, this column is hopeful of a season of heading in the right direction - after a great opening win at Reading and ahead of Barnsley at Hillsborough on Saturday.