Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday column: Why Steve Bruce’s Owls have nothing to lose and everything to gain
If anyone can beat anyone in the Championship, which certainly holds true, then it’s a waste of time studying run-ins.
Beyond idling away time in international breaks, it’s more of a leisure pursuit or a nervous preoccupation.
The only thing you can guarantee is surprises along the way.
But, at risk of tempting fate, I wonder if there is less of a surprise element in Sheffield Wednesday’s remaining fixtures than most.
Will it help rather than hinder, for instance, that none of the last eight are against teams fighting near the bottom?
Of course, Wednesday themselves are a “surprise team” after a run to within three and two points of fifth and sixth places.
However, there isn’t a game left with real surprise potential to it – save for the final day visit of QPR, which I’d firmly expect the Owls to win if there is something riding on it.
Take any of the other seven and I don’t see a potential to shock, other than a heavy scoreline either way.
Stoke away on Saturday, for example. Would any outcome surprise against a team with very good players who have seriously under-performed this season?
Home clashes with Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City – all three rivals for the play-offs – fall into a similar see-saw category. As per Preston away.
Which leaves visits to automatic-promotion chasers Leeds and Norwich.
On the balance of form across the season, you can imagine Steve Bruce’s side might lose either or both of those matches.
What I’m getting at here is the absence of absolute expectation in any of these games – or the run-in as a whole.
Wednesday must hope that goes in their favour. After all, it’s the lack of expectation that has helped fuel a dramatic upturn in form.
I also know there is a school of thought at Hillsborough welcoming the fact that the Owls don’t face a single side battling to stay in the Championship.
Hand-rubbing in anticipation of meeting struggling sides can turn into nail-biting where survival scrappers are concerned.
So I think it’s near enough an ideal set of fixtures in the circumstances.
It offers above all a chance to take points off four other sides in competition for the top six. And that’s half the remaining programme.
Really it couldn’t be much better.
And if that, ironically, does build an element of unwanted expectation, it’s better to look at it another way.
Everything to gain and nothing to lose.