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Owls nervously eyeing FFP ruling amidst collapsing form - Interview
Friday, 10th Jul 2020 17:15 by Clive Whittingham

As the latest club in the ‘is Garry Monk really any good?’ experiment Sheff Wed started well, fell away after Christmas, collapsed after lockdown and have a points deduction of anywhere between 0 and 21 pending. Lovely Jon Hore finds a LFW shoulder to cry on.

How have Sheff Wed done overall this season?

It actually started pretty well, but sitting here now with the way the last six months have gone it’s hard to say it’s been anything other than horrific. Third at Christmas, sixteenth now, three wins in the last 19 games and the lowest home goal scorers in the league. It’s been a really difficult watch for ages. It’ll just be a relief for everyone if we can get out of this season without going down, with a lot of high earners off the books with a chance to refresh the squad in the summer. We definitely surpassed expectations in the first few months of the season, especially when you consider the damage of Steve Bruce pissing off to Newcastle the week before it started. Although regression from there was always likely, it’s been unbelievable just how bad we’ve got. Some of the home performances since Christmas have been diabolical (0-5 Blackburn, 0-3 Reading, 1-3 Derby, 0-3 WBA, 1-3 Preston). Overall it’s been pretty depressing, on and off the pitch.

Oh Jon, my poor boy. Why have results taken a bit of a dive since the turn of the year?

The relative success before Christmas was built around being solid defensively and building from there. Steven Fletcher was in amazing form, leading the line well and scoring on a regular basis. The formula was obviously working fairly well but we were over-reliant on Fletcher for goals and since he got injured against you lot in the FA Cup we’ve been completely toothless. His injury also coincided with us starting to concede goals. Lots of goals. Lots and lots of soft, sloppy, avoidable goals. Players that have been important for us in the last few years, like Tom Lees and Adam Reach, have looked shot and others are devoid of any confidence. Kieran Westwood and Sam Hutchinson got frozen out by Monk in January and haven’t been seen since. Without them there’s a real lack of leaders in the squad, and once the rot set it in it it’s become impossible to reverse no matter what Monk tried. The white flag came out ridiculously early in some games.

Sheff Wed league results…
Reading 1-3 Sheff Wed Meite 54 – Harris 30, Hutchinson 56, Joao 90+7
Sheff Wed 2-0 Barnsley Murphy 2, Fletcher 60
Millwall 1-0 Sheff Wed Smith 37
Sheff Wed 1-0 Luton Harris 54
Preston 2-1 Sheff Wed Johnson pen 32, pen 65 – Fletcher 78
Sheff Wed 1-2 QPR Fletcher pen 23 – Hugill 60, 64
Huddersfield 0-2 Sheff Wed Fletcher 10, Winnall 72
Sheff Wed 1-1 Fulham Nuhui 90 – Cairney 42
Middlesbrough 1-4 Sheff Wed McNair 19 – Clayton og 5, Iorfa 6, Reach 23, Fletcher 34
Hull 1-0 Sheff Wed Eaves 72
Sheff Wed 1-0 Wigan Luongo 57
Cardiff 1-1 Sheff Wed Tomlin 87 – Borner 19
Sheff Wed 1-0 Stoke Luongo 43
Sheff Wed 0-0 Leeds
Blackburn 2-1 Sheff Wed Adarabioyo 88, Buckley 90 – Murphy 83
Sheff Wed 2-2 Swansea Forestieri 81, Fox 90 – Ayew 32, Wilmot 90
West Brom 2-1 Sheff Wed Robson Kanu 10, Austin pen 88 – Fletcher pen 58
Sheff Wed 1-1 Birmingham Harris 81 – Alvaro 48
Charlton 1-3 Sheff Wed Bonne 26 – Fletcher 17, pen 80, Nuhui 90
Sheff Wed 2-1 Brentford Fletcher pen 69, 73 – Mbeumo 29
Derby 1-1 Sheff Wed Martin pen 81 – Fletcher 23
Forest 0-4 Sheff Wed Rhodes 9, 13, 37, Fletcher 45
Sheff Wed 1-0 Bristol City Bannan pen 85
Stoke 3-2 Sheff Wed McClean 11, Vokes 90, Campbell 90 – Fox 67, Lees 74
Sheff Wed 1-2 Cardiff Lees 18 – Glatzel 5, Hoilett 8
Sheff Wed 0-1 Hull Bowen 61
Leeds 0-2 Sheff Wed Murphy 87, Nuhui 90
Sheff Wed 0-5 Blackburn Holtby 19, 45, Dawson og 36, Lenihan 48, Gallagher 90
Wigan 2-1 Sheff Wed Moore 56, Lowe 90 – Murphy 32
Sheff Wed 0-0 Millwall
Barnsley 1-1 Sheff Wed Woodrow 24 – Windass 16
Luton 1-0 Sheff Wed Collins 23
Sheff Wed 0-3 Reading Meite 21, Puskas 72, Baldock pen 90
Birmingham 3-3 Sheff Wed Murphy og 6, Jutkiewicz 30, Hogan 90 – bannon 20, Forestieri pen 34, Murphy 65
Sheff Wed 1-0 Charlton Fletcher 90
Sheff Wed 1-3 Derby Windass 74 – Lawrence 7, 24, Knight 30
Brentford 5-0 Sheff Wed Da Silva 10, 73, Marcondes 18, Mebumo 40, Fosu-Henry 80
Sheff Wed 1-1 Forest Wickham 90 – Lolley 69
Bristol City 1-2 Sheff Wed Wells 68 – Wickham 13, Luongo 59
Sheff Wed 0-3 West Brom Austin pen 37, Pereira 58, 85
Swansea 2-1 Sheff Wed Brewster 52, Ayew pen 66 – Nuhui 90
Sheff Wed 1-3 Preston Murphy 58 – Sinclair 78, Stockley 87, Potts 90

What's the current situation with FFP, how real is the points deduction threat, could it place you in relegation trouble?

The FFP situation is a mess. The chairman threw money at it in his first two years and didn’t get us up. Since then we’ve been in massive shit. Outside of ticket sales we have barely any revenue, and wages to turnover has been through the roof. We’ve barely sold anyone for about five years, and assets such as Forestieri, Hutchinson, Lees and Westwood have hung around so long that they’re now leaving on frees or aren’t worth anything. We were on track to make monumental losses so the chairman used the same loophole Derby did, and sold Hillsborough to himself. Charges were then brought by the EFL for overvaluing the stadium in this sale, and also placing the sale in the wrong set of accounts. The club’s defence is that they told the EFL what they were doing at every stage, and we’re told they could do it. The independent panel hearing has taken place over the last couple of weeks and a decision is due any day now. There’s been rumours we’ve been cleared, and other rumours we’ve been docked points - the longer it goes on without a decision the more pessimistic I get. Any points deduction could realistically be anything from six to 15 and the rules technically state it can go as high as 21. We’re currently seven points above Hull, so any kind of deduction is going to put us right in the shit and the way we’re playing I wouldn’t fancy us at all to get out of it. But then Wigan have been screwed over, and Hull have managed to be even worse than us, so we’d still have a fighting chance.

Garry Monk good Garry Monk bad?

The first thing to say is that there a much bigger problems than Garry Monk at Sheffield Wednesday. The chairman has shown he doesn’t have much of a clue about how to run a club, making bad decision after bad decision, and he doesn’t have a director of football or support structure behind the scenes to help him. Monk hasn’t been able to bring in any coaches and inherited a bloated, aging squad that is crying out for some youth and dynamism. But given all those mitigating factors, I still don’t really have any confidence in him to get it right. We still don’t look like we’ve got any idea how we want to play, I’ve not seen improvement in any of the players since he took over, and as a former defender I’d have hoped he could have done a lot more to stop us leaking goals the way we have been. This summer is going to be massive for the club as we’ve released a load of high earners and have scope for a bit of a rebuild – get the recruitment wrong and there’s only one way we’re going. I think Monk will still be there to oversee the rebuild so hopefully he can prove me wrong.

Summer Ins: >>> Mass Luongo, CM, 26, QPR, £1.1m >>> Kadeem Harris, RM, 26, Cardiff, Free >>> Moses Odubajo, RB, 25, Brentford, Free >>> Julian Borner, CB, 28, Bielefeld, Free >>> Paul Jones GK, 33, Fleetwood, Free >>> David Bates, CB, 22, Hamburg, Loan >>> Jacob Murphy, RW, 24, Newcastle, Loan

Summer Outs: >>> Lucas Joao, CF, 25, Reading, £5.5m >>> Daniel Pudil, LB, 33, Boleslav (Czech), Free >>> George Boyd, runs like fuck, 33, Peterborough, Free >>> David Jones, CM, 34, Oldham, Free >>> Connor O’Grady, CB, 21, Released >>> Marco Matias, RW, 30, Belenenses (Portugal), Released >>> Frederick Nielsen, CB, 21, Released >>> Almen Abdi, CM, 32, Released >>> Gary Hooper, CF, 31, Wellington, Free >>> Connor Kirby, CM, 20, Macclesfield, Loan >>> Joost Van Aken, CB, 25, Osnabruck (Germany), Loan Matt Penney, LB, 21, St Pauli, Loan >>> Jack Stobbs CF, 22, Livingston, Loan

Winter Ins: >>> Connor Wickham, 27, CF, Palace, Loan >>> Josh Windass, 26, AM, Wigan, Loan >>> Alessio Da Cruz, 23, MF, Parma, Loan

Winter Outs: >>> Jordan Thorniley, 23, DF, Blackpool, Undisclosed >>> Ashley Baker, 23, DF, Newport County, Undisclosed

First season with Luongo, how he been?

Mostly injured, so it’s difficult to judge him. Looked pretty good before Christmas in a box to box role linking the midfield with the forwards, which is something we’ve really missed since Kieran Lee’s breakdown about two years ago. Then he got injured and didn’t really feature again until after lockdown. He’s back fit now and has started all our post-lockdown game so far without pulling up any trees. He’ll definitely be important for us next season though if Monk stays, as he wants to play 3-5-2 and we’re really short of numbers in CM at the moment.

Thoughts on Sam Hutchinson, if the rumours about him signing for us turn out to be true what are we getting?

At his best he’s been magnificent for us, a really dynamic and committed presence in front of the back four. He loves a slide tackle and a yellow card and is the sort of player fans really take to. The problem with Sam is the relentless nature of the Championship is not ideal for his biscuit knees (here we fucking go – ed), so it’s difficult to get him on the pitch week in week out. He’ll definitely need to be managed fitness-wise, but if you can do it right and get him right, you’ve got a quality Championship defensive mid.

Player of the season candidates?

Tough this. Even though he’s missed a big chunk of the season, and isn’t at the club anymore, I’d have to say Steven Fletcher. There really aren’t any other candidates.

Weak links?

We can’t score and we can’t defend so the whole thing is a bit of weakness right now. There are absolutely no goals in the team. Jordan Rhodes is shot and must be the slowest footballer in the whole Football League. When we’re on top in games we can’t score and inevitably end up conceding. Moses Odubajo has given away four penalties this season so if he plays get your wingers running at him and they’ll probably have some joy. Also, we’re lacking depth in centre midfield which is particularly important at the moment given three games a week and the 3-5-2 system Monk is playing. There’s a marked drop in quality from the first choice three of Bannan, Lee and Luongo to the rest, so whenever Monk has to make subs or rotate the starters we suffer.

Why will next season be better/worse?

The hope for it to be better is that we’ve released a lot of players and a lot of high earners. There’s now scope for a much needed rebuild, something that hasn’t been possible for the last couple of seasons. We need younger, hungrier players and players who’ve got the fitness to make it through a 46 game Championship season. If we get it wrong though there’s only one way we’re going next season.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Sheffield Star – Local Paper >>> London Owls – Blog >>> Owls Talk – Message Board

The Twitter @loftforwords, @j_ho9

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TacticalR added 21:09 - Jul 10
Thanks to Jon.

This really doesn't sound good. A club lacking a football identity and not scoring goals. Also some parallels with QPR: 'We’ve barely sold anyone for about five years'. Wednesday may be a sleeping giant, but it sounds like it's going to take a miracle to get the club going, and it doesn't sound like Monk is the man to do it.

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