ON THE ROAD: Sheffield Wednesday boss Darren Moore has a tough job to lift the proud club back up from the third tier… despite positive performances on the field, there are reasons to be fearful off the pitch
- Sheffield Wednesday have had a steady decline since the 2016 play-off final
- The proud club are now looking to try and get themselves out of League One
- There’s enough to be cheerful on the pitch as shown by their win on Saturday
- Still there are reasons to be fearful due to off-the-field issues behind the scenes
Taking the short stroll down Leppings Lane towards Hillsborough, the streets were tainted by the scent of chip-shop grease, cheap lager and pyrotechnic flares.
The beaming green of the pitch, the echoes of a middle-aged man belting out terrace chants — the little things, which fans didn’t know they missed, were back.
And as the players took to the turf, it all felt normal. As if the loud-and-proud Wednesday faithful had never been away.
But then reality struck. This is no longer a team making an annual push for Premier League promotion. It’s a football club in England’s third tier, with a sorry state of affairs behind the scenes.
Darren Moore has a big job on hand as he tries to get Sheffield Wednesday out of League One
It has been a steady decline since Carlos Carvalhal’s side dazzled their way to a Wembley play-off final in 2016
In truth, Wednesday were far from play-off candidates the last time there were no attendance limits at Hillsborough. It has been a steady decline since Carlos Carvalhal’s side dazzled their way to a Wembley play-off final in 2016. A rollercoaster 2020-21 campaign began with a deduction of 12 points — later halved on appeal — for breaching profitability and sustainability regulations.
Garry Monk started in the managerial hot-seat, before Tony Pulis breezed in for a turbulent 45 days. Neil Thompson took temporary charge for nine weeks before the club settled on promising young manager Darren Moore.
‘The only mistake I feel I’ve made has been Wednesday,’ said Monk after his exit. ‘It’s the only job where I knew in my heart, before I took it, that there were a lot of things wrong there.’
Players were repeatedly not paid on time and the latest published accounts reveal an operating loss of £24million with a staggering wage bill of £33.5m. The accounts contained a note of uncertainty from the auditors, which stated that additional funding from owner Dejphon Chansiri would be required for the club to continue operating.
The fans have plenty to be cheerful about with displays like Saturday’s win over Doncaster
And on the pitch, just as an upturn in form began, boss Moore had a troubling bout of Covid that led to pneumonia.
This year, the EFL have said they will impose an immediate deduction of six points if Chansiri fails to pay his players once. The demotion to the third tier will cost them an estimated £7m and they still pay £2.5m to rent their stadium, which fans are still fighting to acquire.
And since the relegation, 15 first-team players have departed, including experienced pros such as Tom Lees, Keiren Westwood and Jordan Rhodes, as well as young prospects Liam Shaw and Osaze Urhoghide.
‘There’s a lot of people leaving behind the scenes, so it’s not a great place to be at the minute,’ said club captain Barry Bannan while talking to BBC Scotland. ‘It’s been really tough.’
At 31, Bannan is by far the most experienced player at the club and based on talent alone he is far too good for League One. The Scotsman demonstrated that on Saturday, opening the scoring with a stunning strike against South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster.
Barry Bannan is by far the most experienced player at the club and based on talent alone he is far too good for League One
Dennis Adeniran, one of 13 new recruits on free transfers or loans, made it 2-0 minutes later. It was a scruffy finish but Wednesday fans did not care a jot. The stands were bouncing with joy.
‘We should walk this league. It’ll do us good a season in League One,’ a fan was overheard saying on the return leg of the walk along Leppings Lane to the tram stop.
The optimism was admirable but Sunderland, Portsmouth and Ipswich have a tale or two to tell about how this unforgiving League cares not one iota about club size and reputation.
Reputation did, though, help the Owls lure Moore away from Saturday’s opponents Doncaster, his previous employers who overachieved during his short tenure.
Dejphon Chansiri’s Sheffield Wednesday will face another points deduction if their players aren’t paid again
Moore is a calm manager, a forward-thinking coach and he gives off an aura that suggests he is capable of shutting out background noise and dealing with adverse situations.
Many of the 13 recruits are either youthful and inexperienced or players deemed surplus to requirements at their previous clubs, perhaps due to a downward trajectory in long-term form.
Yet on Saturday, signs were evident that Moore is starting to unlock the best of the likes of Florian Kamberi, at his fifth club in the last 18 months, and classy midfielder Lewis Wing, another who has struggled for consistency.
So on the pitch, there are reasons to be cheerful. Off it, there are plenty of reasons to be fearful.
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