Wednesday hoping to go one better - Interview Sunday, 16th Apr 2017 11:50 by Clive Whittingham
Another play-off push is underway for striker-heavy Sheffield Wednesday. Lovely Jon Hore is here to tell us if they’re going to go one better than 2015/16 when they lost against Hull at Wembley.
Assess Sheff Wed's season so far for us...
JH: We’ve got more points than at this stage last season but it’s been a lot less entertaining. Despite our abundance of attacking talent there’s been a definite switch to a more conservative style of play. There have been some great performances (Newcastle x2, Norwich) but also a lot of winning ugly and for a most of the season the team just hasn’t clicked into gear and delivered the performances we saw week in week out last season. Still, shouldn’t be ungrateful. We’ve also been fairly unlucky with injuries with key players like Lees, Lee, Hooper, Forestieri and Abdi all missing decent chunks of the season, but a playoff place is in our hands with five games left and I’ve got a feeling the win against Newcastle at the weekend will see us kick on now.
A weak performance in the play-off final last season, why will it be different this time?
JH: We’ve got a job on getting to the playoffs first, but if we do I’m confident the opposition won’t be as good as last season. We managed to beat an excellent Brighton side but came up against a Hull team with a lot more Premier league and big game experience that we’re just miles better than us on the day. I don’t think there’s anything to fear from the teams currently in the playoff places and hopefully the players will have benefitted from the experience of that Hull game.
If you don't go up, what will that mean for the manager and the squad? What will need to change for next season?
JH:We’re not a million miles away so no massive changes are needed. A lot of fans have been disappointed with this season and while I appreciate it’s not been great viewing for the most part I still think it will be an achievement if we can back up last years’ top six place with another play-off appearance given how competitive the league is this season. The key for me is finding a long term CB partner for Tom Lees and upgrading the full back positions because despite our pretty good goals against record we lack depth and quality in defence. We’ve also managed to assemble a squad of a million players that doesn’t have any pace in it so that’s something we need to look at. The squad also needs trimming because we’re carrying too many at the moment. I think a top six place will see Carlos get another crack at it if he wants one as he seems to have a great relationship with the chairman, he’ll need to find a style of play that makes the most of our attacking talent though.
And if you do, how do you think the club would approach the task of staying in the Prem?
JH:There’d clearly be money to spend but it would be daft to think it would be anything other than a massive struggle to stay up. I’d much prefer us to go down the Burnley route and try and add four or five players to the core off the current squad than just splash millions on loads of new faces because there’s absolutely no guarantee that would work any better. We’d be better off investing in improvements to our decrepit away stand and other areas of the ground, and making sure the infrastructure is in place for long-term stability at the club.
The squad seems very top heavy with strikers (jealous), who exactly picks the signings at Sheff Wed these days? How are players purchased?
JH: As far as I’m aware all targets are identified by Carvalhal now, and the chairman has been very supportive with funds and the wage budget. At the start of the Chansiri era we had a three man committee of Glenn Roeder and a couple of other randoms – surprisingly this didn’t last long. As you point out our squad is a little bit unbalanced and there’s been the mysterious signing of the invisible Urby Emanuelsson - he’s allegedly on 20k a week and I don’t think he’s ever even made the bench. Carlos has gone down the route of goals win games and let’s get as many options up top as we can because last season we didn’t have many goals in us outside of Hooper and Forestieri. As much as I admire Adthe Nuhiu’s workrate and team ethic you don’t want to be relying on him for a goal ever. It was clear at the start of the season though that we needed another quality centre half so I’m not sure why this wasn’t addressed.
Where is the team strong and weak?
JH: Strengths – definitely the keeper. I don’t think there’s anyone better than Kieren Westwood at this level. We’ve got loads of forward options and a good blend of players in centre midfield, the problem has been keeping the midfielders fit. Sam Hutchinson limps away with a career-threatening injury every time he goes to ground (which is loads) and Almen Abdi arrived with great expectations but has missed most of the season with injuries and not been able to have any sort of run in the team. The most glaring weakness for me is our lack of pace. Our usual starting wingers and full backs aren’t that quick, and none of our four hundred strikers could be described as rapid. We also need a big, nasty centre back and an upgrade in the full back positions.
Who's the Player of the Season?
JH: Kieran Lee up to Christmas and since then probably Sam Hutchinson. He started the year at CB but since he’s moved back into midfield he’s been the heartbeat of the team. Luckily for you lot they’re both crippled at the moment so it’s very unlikely either will be playing on Monday. I also think Ross Wallace has had an underrated season, he’s been terrific recently.