The wait is nearly over…
There’s a football match at Hillsborough on Saturday.
It might only be a pre-season friendly against West Brom and it might only attract a few thousand supporters.
But for many it will be their first time back at the old place since THAT game against Wycombe.
A lot has changed since goals from Michail Antonio and Nile Ranger sparked wild celebrations amongst the 38,000 Wednesdayites in attendance that day.
We’ve even had a summer supposedly…
INS AND OUTS
For starters those two are no longer at the club; loan spells from Reading and Newcastle respectively have not (yet) materialised into full transfers.
Michail Antonio’s future remains unclear
The Antonio saga has dominated the summer transfer talk with Wednesdayites eager to see the exciting wideman return but Milan Mandaric seemingly unprepared to pay over the odds.
Dave Jones hasn’t though been reluctant to dip into the transfer market as he prepares for a charge on the Championship.
Before the end of May Chris Kirkland and Kieran Lee were already unveiled and since then Jones has added the likes of Chris Maguire, Nejc Pecnik and Anthony Gardner.
Several players have also moved on including Clinton Morrison and Chris Sedgwick while fringe players like Julian Bennett and Mark Reynolds remain at the club but not in the gaffer’s plans.
The latest player to join the ranks was young Scottish midfielder Rhys McCabe, who joins from a club in the Scottish lower leagues.
But it is clear there is still work to do and time is running out.
Rob Jones has left the club to join Doncaster which is a good deal for both parties – but DJ will still want more cover at centre half.
The Antonio situation highlights the need for another winger, despite JJ signing another one-year extension.
Is Marlon the man for Wednesday?
Chris Lines excelled in League One last term but the pursuit of David Norris, who eventually joined Leeds, suggests Jones wants more experience in the middle.
Meanwhile, Marlon Harewood has featured heavily up front in pre-season but whether the gaffer offers the big man a deal or looks elsewhere is yet to be decided.
The outcome of the upcoming trial of last term’s talisman Gary Madine is some way away yet so Jones’ hand may yet be forced.
“PRE-SEASON COUNTS FOR NOTHING”
Different manager, different location but pre-season tour results are rarely remembered come May.
It’s an old adage but one that managers roll out regardless of how their side gets on in the summer months.
Draws against Leeds and Stoke last pre-season offered little indication of the season ahead and a 2-0 win against Reading in Albufeira shouldn’t get Owls fans over-excited.
Pre-season serves the purpose of giving players match time, managers the opportunity to try a few things and supporters first look at new signings (and new kits!)
Nevertheless, fans will always get carried away – remember the mockery that followed when a very young Wednesday side were beaten 14-0 at Alfreton?
With no immediate perspective reactions lurch from one extreme to another.
Trialist Bastien Héry was lauded as the next Maradona after a good performance against Stocksbridge while a 0-0 draw at Donny has left local media bemoaning a lack of firepower.
Rave reviews for the former PSG man
Twitter has a lot to answer for.
Of course Twitter was around this time last year but it wasn’t used anywhere near as much by Wednesday fans.
The endless rumours, conflicting reports and brainless retweets reached a low point during the Reading game.
The signing of Michail Antonio was widely ‘reported’ despite the story being broken by an over-enthusiastic Wednesdayite who hijacked BBC Radio Berkshire’s coverage.
Preparation is vital but even if we lose to West Brom on Saturday the only result that matters is when we travel to Pride Park a fortnight later.
THE KNOWN UNKNOWN
It’s a funny one is the Championship.
We’ve spent eight of the twelve seasons since relegation in the second tier but after our latest League One excursion it remains as unpredictable as ever.
There are plenty of familiar faces in the likes of Derby, Forest, Burnley; the list goes on.
Re-United with an old ‘friend’
Then there’s the return to battle with Yorkshire rivals Leeds who we haven’t met since they were relegated to League One in 2007.
Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves have come down from the Premier League after a tumultuous last twelve months but all possess the quality to go straight back up at the first attempt.
The excitement of returning to the Championship and the desire to push on may only be tempered by that feeling of “we’ve been here loads of times before!”
They say familiarity breeds contempt but hopefully it breeds confidence – the bands of travelling Owls will certainly not be overawed by visits to Turf Moor and Vicarage Road.
Fans of other clubs may get sick of us banging on about it but our support really is tremendous.
The figures speak for themselves.
The 38,082 gate against Wycombe was the highest in the Football League last season and the Owls had the third highest away following in the Football League despite visiting some seriously pokey grounds.
The celebrations on the final day will live long in the memory
The Wednesdayites in Portugal could be heard loud and clear on the radio while over 3,000 took over the Keepmoat on Saturday.
Then an estimated 12,000 turned up for a fun day at Hillsborough Park – utter madness!
There will be a mad scramble for away tickets this season and the club have done the right thing bringing in a loyalty system.
Gary Megson (remember him?) instilled a winning mentality at home which we hadn’t seen for many years.
With regular crowds in excess of 25,000 it will be another challenge for the players but let’s hope it can continue to be an advantage.
And if Dave Jones remains unbeaten come Christmas time we could be onto something really special…
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @CraigSWFC