Owls Alive contributors chew the fat
As regular readers will know, our Owls Alive contributors love a ramble.
“For goodness’ sake, it’s the international break, just spare us for two weeks”, you’re thinking, aren’t you?
And we wouldn’t blame you for that.
But here we are, anyway. It’s Tuesday afternoon of the second week and we’ve got a lot of Wednesday things to get off our chests.
Here follows our discussion of all things blue and white.
Let’s put you in the picture. It’s Monday night and Dan, Steve, Charlie and Peter are sat around the pub table. It’s a virtual pub table, the pints aren’t real, the crisps are imaginary and the Northern Soul B-sides are just in our heads.
That’s right, we did this on Facebook, where all the intelligent debate happens these days.
With Hugh to mediate and occasionally chip in, the debate went a little something like this.
Some comments have been edited because Hugh didn’t agree with them (just kidding).
Hugh: Welcome one, welcome all. First thing to address – are Wednesday deservedly a top six side?
Charlie: Over the season so far, just. On current form, definitely not.
Dan: Right now? No. The only reason we are still there is because Fulham have hit a slump, and if we don’t pick ourselves up very quickly, we will be chasing.
Peter: Yes, we are, but like last season, where we also stumbled over the line. We’re increasingly relying on others being worse than us.
Steve: I’m not sure we are in ANY shape for the run in if I’m honest. Unless rubbish is a shape?
Charlie: We’ve put ourselves under serious pressure for the run in now, especially against Barnsley and Rotherham – they’ll love to get one over us. We even need to take points off Newcastle. I can’t see us finishing in the playoffs.
Steve: I will be very surprised if we get more than a handful of points from our remaining games and my BIG hope is that we go into the last game of the season against Fulham with THAT game as being the one that decides whether we are in the play offs or not.
Peter: My main worry, though, isn’t the other teams. It’s the lack of organised team work in our team, defensively as well as offensively, that worries me: Two players will press, but two will stand back, and there’s an odd sleep-walking quality to us at times.
Hugh: I think we have to credit the opposition to some extent, surely it’s not just Wednesday lethargy?
Peter: There’s definitely an argument that other teams have sussed us. But that didn’t happen this season; it actually happened in around March last season: If we’re denied space in front of the ball, we struggle to create it ourselves.
Dan: I’m with you on the pressing game, Peter. Whenever we are missing Hutchinson or Forestieri, other players try to take on their roles but aren’t capable. At Hillsborough we don’t tend to wake up until the other team has put a shot or two across the bow.
Off the pace
Charlie: We’re too one dimensional. We’re missing a quick burst of acceleration or quick one-twos from last season. Kieran Lee being out has been a bigger hole than many would have expected.
Steve: We have no swagger… we have no style… we have no grit… no flair… we look dull and lifeless for the most of it. I can take most things but one thing Stuart Gray taught me… CHUFF ME, IT HAS TO BE ENTERTAINING!
Charlie: Against Norwich when Hutch charged the ball down we saw pace and urgency. Haven’t seen much else of that.
Hugh: You all agree on what we’re missing… so, what’s gone wrong with recruitment?
Peter: Losing Kieran Lee is definitely the single biggest factor, even if there are many.
Steve: RIGHT! If that’s true, that we MISS Kieran Lee so much…WHY DID WE BUY RHODES?
Peter: I made the point this summer that Carvahal’s recruitment was actually a bit hit and miss.
Rhodes: time to play to his strengths?
Dan: I didn’t realise what a massive impact Lee’s injury would have. I find it amazing that three of our best players were here before the money: Hutch, Lee, Westwood.
Peter: Rhodes is a trophy – a very Premier League-esque name signing – but we’ve not built a mantlepiece to put him on.
Charlie: I think we brought Rhodes in because he’s a luxury and exciting. I also don’t think Carlos could buy another midfielder after how wrong he’s got it in signing them this season.
Dan: There’s something amiss with the club’s transfer policy; we are overloaded on strikers, right wingers, and static central midfielders, and yet two weeks ago we were scared we wouldn’t have any centre-backs available.
Peter: As I said, his recruitment is hit and miss. He’s actually better with fewer resources in many, in many ways. He seems to relish picking up underachieving players and making them fire on all cylinders again – he needs that constraint. Once he’s showered with cash he spends £18m on Almen Abdi, Adam Reach and Jordan Rhodes, who have, what, five goals between them this season..?
Hugh: Any thoughts on particular players? Who is holding the team together and who is off the pace?
Charlie: I don’t think there are many players that you could say are actually playing at the level you’d expect from them. Only Wallace has kept himself in favour for me after last season, he deserves a huge amount of respect after all of the times he’s been unfairly dropped and forced his name back onto the team-sheet. He’s still our best winger (if you call Forestieri a striker).
Steve: I hear from folk around me all the time… new faces I’ve never seen at games before… they say Rhodes and Winall are luxury players but they work their plums off – BOTH of em! Rhodes is usually knackered after 90 minutes of non-stop work. I love both of em but I don’t understand why we didn’t buy a centre mid. That said, David Jones has been our best player in the last few games.
Peter: It’s a luxury to buy Rhodes, but I definitely agree, his playing style isn’t “luxury”. In fact, Rhodes is in many ways working too hard for the team: Him and Winnall drop way too deep, meaning we have no one in front of the ball stretching the pitch.
Steve: I see everyone is avoiding the Bannan in the room!
No, I’m not Photoshopping an elephant’s trunk on to this, that would be ridiculous
Dan: The issue is having central mids who don’t have the pace to break through and get the ball forward…
Steve: We can’t have that kind of player when Bannan can’t be trusted at the moment. Last season he was a rock but this season a sock… a smelly one at that. I can’t tell you how much he disappoints me this season. When he plays well the whole team get a lift.
Dan: An issue I think we have is players who struggle without their usual partner: Lees is great with Loovens next to him but with Sasso looks a bit lost, Hunt doenst know what to do without Wallace infront of him, and Bannan has been missing most weeks without Lee.
Charlie: It comes back to Kieran Lee for me. I think Bannan has felt the pressure and missed his mate Lee too. Lee allowed Bannan to sparkle.
Steve: Last season he was EXACTLY what we needed… an absolute rock… he carried us at times. He was tenacious, he was skillful, he was a workhorse… he must have covered every blade of grass on that pitch twice over in each game. The fans took him to their hearts…WE ALL DID.
Peter: If we’re talking “luxury players”, none are more so than Barry Bannan.
Steve: THIS season…we have missed THAT Bannan… and boy have we needed him. He goes missing, he’s looked tired… lifeless… has no vision or spark. Quite clearly on several occasions he has been the player that SHOULD have been subbed, only for that not to be the case.
Has impressed of late
Peter: Is the issue really that we’ve a shortage of players assuming responsibility for the TEAM, not just doing alibi pressing and “hard work” James O’Connor style to absolve themselves of criticism..?
Hugh: This is why Jones is suddenly getting the plaudits he deserves; people have recognised how important his work is for the team.
Steve: I watch him very closely every game now. I was a huge knocker of his… and who doesn’t love a huge knocker But boy has he changed my mind.
He may not be quick but class stays with you and he creates time for himself and you can see he is a thinker… he doesn’t waste much and he works his nads off to boot. A cracking all round player for me and I wish we’d seen more of him instead of Bannan.
Hugh: Any words for Sam Hutchinson?
Steve: This is Hutch’s season for me. I know a lot of folk don’t like the things he forces this team into doing, the style he makes us play but chuff me I love a player like him…
Not just for what I see on the pitch, when I hear him speak of the club, OUR club, he is one of us… he chuffing LOVES this club and loves being here. His family love being here.
He is our new Bully… our new Semedo… and sometimes that is more important than what’s on the pitch. It gladdens my heart that footballers like him are still around and that we have three of them at our club.
Sometimes it’s about on the pitch… sometimes it’s about off it… but every now and then it’s about both and he has been a mountain both on and off it.
Charlie: Hooper, Rhodes and Forestieri would terrify defences. Especially with Hutch, Bannan and Lee behind them.
Peter: And, Charlie, we’d still have Winnall, Reach, McManaman, Wallace to throw on if things went awry.
Charlie: Yeah, all great options. If we can get injured players back and hit some form then we can still make this season brilliant and people will forget all of the moaning and “boring” matches. Lots of ifs though.
Peter: I think that’s what gets everyone so down: the sketches for a great team, perhaps the best in our modern history, are definitely there. But something elusive is keeping us away from it, and annoyingly feels only just out of reach.
Dan: Westwood is someone we don’t praise as much as we used to, but that’s because we all know how brilliant he is, and brings that level of passion and effort that we admire in Hutch.
Charlie: I don’t think Westwood has been himself this season, still been good but not quite as great as can be.
Peter: I agree with Charlie about Westwood, sadly. Too many unforced errors, not all of them “fatal”, though. He’s lost a bit of that “impregnable” aura he used to have playing for us.
Hugh: Moving away from on-field matters, how do you feel about Dejphon Chansiri these days, and the direction that the club is moving in?
Charlie: Can’t question DC’s commitment, he’s putting the money in and trying to do it sensibly, not just splashing the cash.
Peter: Chansiri buying Rhodes was very much out of character. I worry in some ways if he’s turning into one of those chairmen, who just wants to be loved. As is the case with similar politicians, that completely clouds any rational decision-making, and if there’s one quality that has impressed me about Chansiri’s regime it’s been the level of common sense and rationality.
Dan: The recent accounts that were released were a little worrying for me, everything he is building could fall down if we don’t reach the promised land.
Steve: Hmm… I’m not so sure that is much of an issue to be honest Dan. A £10m loss is small potatoes for the tuna man.
Peter: If we do somehow make it to the Premier League, what’s stopping him from pulling a Blackpool (or, now, Hull) on us and essentially asset-stripping the astronomical TV money away from us..? I’m far from saying he would – I actually don’t think he would – but there is zero barrier to him doing so.
Charlie: I can’t agree with his pricing strategies, I just can’t. Say what you want about FFP but our prices shouldn’t be so much higher than everybody else’s. If we don’t get it right soon how long will he stick around? He’s not in it to make money, you can’t do that in this division. How much longer will he hack it for the ego boost?
Steve: One thing about the chairman is he knows his own mind and will not let sentimentality get in the way of our club going where he wants us to go. I genuinely feel he wants the best for this club and is determined for it to happen. I bet there was a right round of chuffs after the play off final from him.
Hugh: Let’s finish off with some quickfire questions. First, you can sign one player, who is it?
Steve: Hollie tells me who is good and who isn’t. I can’t remember anyone standing out, other than Al Habsi.
(Billy staggers across from virtual pub bar clasping a pint and an empty packet of pork scratchings…)
Billy: In terms of areas I think we need to strengthen (CB mainly) I would say Tommy Smith from Ipswich Town or James Tarkowski from Burnley. I would also go in for McManaman on a permanent. Given a full season with us I think he’d be a great asset.
Charlie: Knockaert. Horrible player to play against, love him on your team. Like Forestieri. Or Dunk.
Hugh: Will Carlos make it to the end of season three with Wednesday?
Carlos is feeling the pressure
Steve: No. If we aren’t in top 2 all season the fans won’t like that. Their patience will be broken.
(Sean appears clutching thirty pound coins he’s collected from the fruit machine, neglects to tell everyone he’s lost three £20 notes to the same machine since 6.30pm…)
Charlie: If Wednesday don’t make the playoffs this season it’ll be a massive test of DC’s nerve and commitment to Carlos to keep him.
Dan: If we don’t make the playoffs then he will be in danger. If we fail this year then aren’t in the top six after a few months, he will be gone.
Hugh: Your brief thoughts on the third kit?
Charlie: Love the third kit, hope the home is traditional blue and white stripes and the away is yellow.
Peter: Not sold on the third kid, but then I’m still hurting from the loss of the stripes (banned by Chansiri through some Thai superstition or other?) Also: A white kit seems a bit redundant?
Dan: I like the third kit, it was a nice touch to do the fan design thing, though the one ill be interested in is the home kit. I’m very excited to see that one (and who will be making it).
Hugh: If next year’s home isn’t featured on classic shirt websites in 2047, we’ve failed. Only a shirt of Holland 1988 quality will suffice.
Hugh: Will we beat United in the first derby for five years?
Charlie: We’ll hammer ’em.
Peter: United? We’ll beat them 3-0 at the Sty and 5-1 at Hillsborough. You heard it here first!
Steve: We won’t play United for a while yet.
Dan: Another double. Will be nice to put out another Steel City Double DVD, we could do a boxset with them being around 10 years apart.
Hugh: We’ll lose at Hillsborough.
And on that note, the chat is ended. The dregs of virtual pints were knocked back, watches were checked, and at least three of us mentioned ‘too much for a school night’.
You can see why we love a ramble.
There’s a number of very interesting points hidden away in there; and we’d like to hear your thoughts over on Twitter.
Is Bannan underachieving? Will Carlos make it to season three? Will Chansiri cut and run or is he in it for the long haul?
What is this side missing and who is that one player who could transform us?
Who is worth celebrating? Love poems addressed to Sam Hutchinson are, as ever, more than welcome.
Direct personal abuse at the following Twitter accounts: @hugh_wragg, @danmoxon, @Beastie_, @THEsharpey and @ploehmann.
Images: SWFC (except Jones, that one is Angela’s)