Today marks the halfway stage in the Championship season for Newcastle United, and while there have been ups and downs so far, it is fair to say that this campaign has been a success with United sitting pretty at the top of the tree.
Sheffield Wednesday – A Factfile
Nickname: The Owls
Manager: Carlos Carvalhal
2015-16: Championship, 6th
Major Honours: FA Cup (1896, 1907, 1935), First Division (1902-03, 1903-04, 1928-29, 1929-30), League Cup (1991)
Steven Fletcher – ST – Scottish international striker Fletcher is no stranger to the Championship or Newcastle United. Formerly on the books of arch rivals Sunderland, Fletcher featured in many of the recent derby matches between the two clubs. However, as the Scot has proven with his decision to drop down a division, as he gets older, his ability to influence a game has begun to wane.
Adam Reach – LW – Reach can be deployed on the wing or in an attacking midfield role depending on Carvalhal’s formation and tactics, but can be a menace from either position. Signed from Middlesbrough on transfer deadline day for £5m, Reach has a great deal to prove. Born only a few miles away in Chester-le-Street, Reach went through the academy system at a number of North East clubs before breaking through on Teesside.
Jeremy Helan – LM – One of the strangest decisions of the Championship season so far was ex-Manchester City man Helan’s choice to retire from football at the age of 24. In September the Frenchman announced his retirement after making over 125 league appearances for Wednesday. Helan had become a name synonymous with The Owls before his decision to concentrate on his religion.
Fernando Forestieri – CF – A player who United were heavily linked with in the summer was Fernando Forestieri. The Owls centre-forward and playmaker is usually used in the number ten role and has been prolific for Watford and Wednesday in the Championship since his move to the UK. Wednesday’s very own illustrious and maverick number 45 is one of the few Championship players who have the capacity to turn a game on its head, making him a key threat.
Sam Hutchinson – CB – A mainstay in this Sheffield Wednesday side, Hutchinson is an ex-Chelsea defender who failed to make the grade at Stamford Bridge, but has excelled in Yorkshire. His versatility is key to his game, being able to function at right-back or in a more advanced defensive midfield role, giving boss Carvalhal a number of options, especially in a 46 game season. Hutchinson has really impressed this season in cementing down a place in the defence, and looks set to continue there for the remainder of the season.
Keiran Westwood – GK – An Irish international with plenty of experience, Westwood is close to marking his 100th league game with Wednesday in under three years. Spells at Carlisle United and Coventry City gave him his grounding in the Football League before playing in the Premier League for Sunderland. A move to Wednesday in 2014 reinvigorated the 32-year old’s career and he has never looked back, making the number one shirt his own at Hillsborough.
Last Six Results
Fulham 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday – 19/11/16
Wolves 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday – 26/11/16
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Preston – 3/12/16
Reading 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday – 10/12/16
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Barnsley – 13/12/16
Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 Rotherham – 17/12/16
The Portuguese boss has enjoyed, or rather endured, a long, journeyman-like career. Carvalhal took over Wednesday in 2015, making it the 16th club he had managed. In his sixteen years as a player, Carvalhal toured Portugal making appearances for no fewer than nine clubs, indicating that the man is not impartial to moving around.
On the other hand, Carvalhal’s relationship with The Owls’ supporters seems to be a solid one, and coupled with an environment in which he feels comfortable to do his job, Carvalhal could be around for some time yet. The ignominy of failing to gain promotion via the Play-Off Final last year will weigh heavily on his mind, and his players too who will need the mental strength to endure what is potentially three of the hardest consecutive matches in English football.
It is looking likely that Carvalhal’s side will have to take the Play-Off route once again if they are to be promoted. Failure at a second attempt could spell the end of the Portuguese boss’ tenure at Hillsborough.