Owls Alive season review 2016/17

Owls Alive season review 2016/17

It’s time to pick up the pieces, as the Average White Band once told us.

Sincere and hearty congratulations to Huddersfield Town.

Yorkshire will once again be represented at the top table and, honestly, I can’t think of a more likeable and sustainably run club that we’ve come up against in the past few years.

A shame about the ‘Forestieri fun bus‘, but what can you do.

Back to all things Wednesday – it’s time for our contributors to chew the fat and review the season just gone.

With hindsight, a campaign in which we just about matched expectations, without addressing the problems of the previous season.

Make no mistake, as the squad becomes more bloated and the money takes control, promotion will become even more difficult.

As that organic team chemistry from Carlos’ first season continues to ebb away, his job becomes more challenging.

That said, and even accounting for what was frequently a challenging watch, there were many bright spots.

Wednesday continue to scale a rising arc, finishing higher in every season since 2011. This was (again) our best season this century.

With a settled summer and well-thought out additions, we could, finally, be on our way.

The brief for our contributors was ‘a couple of lines each’.

What follows is the edited version.

Pop the kettle on. Or maybe do a big shop.

We don’t do brevity.





Player of the season: There are several contenders in what was an excellent campaign.

Sam Hutchinson’s disciplined performances made him a more rounded player; Tom Lees’ continued improvement was enjoyable to behold; Ross Wallace was excellent on the right.

Kieran Lee is my Player of the Year, however. Wednesday play their best football with him in the side and he scored a number of vital goals from midfield.

Improvements to be made

Thoughts on Carlos: Needs to recognise his weaknesses and improve upon them. Nonetheless, I’m delighted he’s staying: he’s an excellent coach who has improved a number of players and he represents the club with the utmost dignity and respect. Can he make us both ruthless and enjoyable to watch?

Goal of the season: Forestieri’s low drive to finish a team move at Fulham wins it for me. The quick passing, the step over, the finish: all lovely. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Unsung heroes: Carlos’ coaching staff. Several players have improved immeasurably since June 2015: Hunt, Lees, and Hutchinson most obviously. Carlos’ team are moulding these, and others, into our most prized assets. Let’s hope they can work their magic on some of our younger players coming through.

Key signing this summer: Let’s do nothing daft – spending ridiculous money on players we don’t need or cannot use. Too often we lack energy in midfield. Hutchinson and Jones can cover the anchor role; Lee and Bannan the box-to-box. We need a direct player to challenge Adam Reach: someone with a trick, a turn of pace, and notably, end product. Reach needs a player to challenge him to improve upon his handful of goals and assists.





Player of the year: For me it was Ross Wallace.

I think he’s the only player that consistently maintained the same standards as the previous season, despite some people ruling him out at the start of the campaign.

Key player

He’s worked extremely hard when dropped out of the team and come up with crucial goals yet again – none of them tap ins! The average distance of his goals must be +25 yards!

Thoughts on Carlos: Personally I’m glad he was given a new contract, it’s great to see an owner looking for stability but I do think this coming season has to be his last chance – especially if we spend a substantial amount again.

The players all clearly really like his style and respect him as a man as well as leader and that’s hugely important.

Goal of the season: Mine is probably a bit of a different goal – Forestieri against Cardiff. The importance of the goal was huge but the technique he needed to keep that diving header down can’t be overstated. Fantastic piece of skill.


Unsung hero: Can I pick the same as my player of the year? I’m going to anyway. Ross Wallace doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for everything he does.

Key signing this summer: A new defender – anywhere across the back four.

I think we’re guilty of believing our defence is better than it actually is. I’d love to see an experienced, old head come in to go next to Tom Lees but we could also do with a top quality full back for both sides.






Player of the season: Glenn Loovens. Probably an unpopular choice, and one of the players most will likely want to replace as we take the next step. But hear me out.

Loovens has been the rock around which a superb defence has been built, keeping 17-18 clean sheets three years in a row.

I’d urge anyone to take 5 minutes or so of a game closely watching Glen. His communication, encouragement and tactical awareness are fantastic to watch.

Thoughts on Carlos: Identifying and signing that ‘link player’ that will challenge Hooper and Forestieri, and step in when required will be key. It’s all well and good having a squad of players with different attributes that can give you options, but maybe it should be about signing players to suit the team rather than adapting the way we play to suit new players.

Rhodes: time to play to his strengths?

Having said that… Adapting to playing in a way that gets the best out Jordan Rhodes must also be on the agenda; we began to see Bannan looking up and playing a quick through ball from deep into the channels for him to chase, others will need to follow suit.

Final bit of advice – Get off, and stay off Twitter… and ban the players from it too.

Goal of the season: Pure and simple… Abdi. Much the same as Matias the season before him, the control, technique, accuracy and power behind his volley was sublime.

And much the same as Matias the season before him, pretty much the only thing he did all year.

Unsung heroes: I’ll go a bit left field and go for Neil Thompson.

He’s been with the club for a while and has nurtured a great bunch of kids for the last few seasons, culminating in the U23 championship win this season.

Some of the boys have been on the books a few years, Wildsmith, Dawson, Betra, Stobbs and Penney. You also have to applaud the way he’s taken his time in slowly introducing players like Hirst and Clare to the u23s set up and even a decent loan spell for the latter.

There’s also been a smattering of international call ups… all augers well for the future.

Key signing this summer: With the release of Sasso, Loovens’ advancing years, and Hutchinson’s glass knee, you’d have to say a centre back will be top of Carlos’ list… so I’ll leave that to him.

Other than that, it’s a type of player I’ve alluded to already – the link between midfield and the forward line. A player in the ilk of Forestieri (can play wide, drift inside, play second striker etc) would be ideal. I’m thinking Hernandez at Leeds, Jota at Brentford, Ince at Derby… someone like that.






Player of the season: A difficult one, I would say very few players from the 2015/16 season reached or surpassed the heights of the previous campaign.

Number one for three years

I’d give the nod to Keiren Westwood for a third successive outstanding year in an Owls jersey.

The only blot on his copybook is the couple of instances of him being at fault for conceding penalties by being rash off of his line; however, I would argue that this is due to his predatory instincts in goal to thwart immediate danger by coming off of his line and more often than not he comes up trumps.

Thoughts on Carlos: Chuffed to see him stay on the Wednesday ship for at least another year.

The relationship he shares with Chansiri is a solid one that cannot be overlooked.

In particular, the way that both of them handled – both publicly and privately – the Forestieri situation at the start of the season was flawless and prevented a divisive crack in the foundations from arising.

Carlos is a great face for the club with many sane-minded supporters from other clubs, and the media alike, all have big respect for the bloke himself and for his philosophy for the game. In Carlos we trust.

Goal of the season: Kieran Lee’s 96th minute winner against Bristol City back in September was my personal highlight of the campaign, and it was a goal that truly demonstrated how the former Oldham full-back is truly calmness personified.

What a moment!

It was a goal that completed a tremendous comeback in a bonkers game and his finish – to feint to shoot and then go past the defender – was textbook.

Unsung heroes: Similar to Lee, Gary Hooper has had his number of games frustratingly limited this season due to injury but we look a far greater side with him leading the line as part of a front two.

It’s no coincidence that Hooper’s inclusion towards the final run-in triggered a six-match winning run that fired us into the play-offs – when our position was looking pretty perilous due to Fulham’s onslaught towards the top six at that time, too.

I’d also give a shoutout to Adam Reach for being under the radar as Mr Versatile this season, and being the most prominent of the summer signings in a side mostly made up of last season’s stars; I hope he can really push on next season and maximise his potential. Steven Fletcher has impressed me, when I’ve seen him, despite not receiving massive plaudits this campaign, too.

Key signing this summer: Got to be a centre-back with Loovens getting on and Sasso being released.

Even when we had Sasso we still had to resort to Hutchinson and Semedo filling in at the back at times and – despite their competence in that slot – you’d much rather have them in midfield.

It’d be nice to see us build a team around Rhodes as well as we have a man here who really can spearhead our charge towards promotion. UTO!






Player of the season: It’s a toughie, I’d actually go for Kieran Lee as we are a far better side with him in it than we are without it and we badly, badly missed him for long stretches of time.

Thoughts on Carlos: I’m on the remain side and appreciate the relationship he’s cultivated with DC, however I do get the feeling this is the last chance saloon this term.

He needs to see if he can discover a balance between the intense, free-flowing of year one and the pragmatic approach of year two, and hope he has a bit of luck with injuries.

Injuries have cost Wednesday this term

Also, he needs to be a bit more careful with what he says at times, the Rhodes play off penalty saga was a social media furore that could easily have been avoided.

Goal of the season: The Wallace thunderbastard against Huddersfield, enough said.

Unsung hero: I don’t think any player has really been unsung, there’s been a couple of disappointments however, Abdi was signed without any real thought of how he’d slot into the side and Bannan was severely exposed without Kieran Lee alongside him.

Key signing this summer: I think there’s three to be made, centre-back, a strong midfielder, someone like Mooy or maybe even Huddlestone at Hull (not the actual players themselves, we’re not in cloud cuckoo land) and a pacy winger, for all Reach and Wallace do, pace scares the heck out of defenders, a fast winger supplying crosses to our quartet of forwards should see the goals scored column shooting up. I’ve heard some mentioning a left back but there’s a lot more to come from Morgan Fox, he could even usurp Pudil in the new season.





Player of the season: Kieran Lee. The fish in our fishcake, or whatever it was Carvahal Cantona’ed on about at one point. So many players need him in there to be good, to be there best. The ultimate sum more than the parts player.

Thoughts on Carlos: I really thought he’d be gone, regardless of what happened in the play-offs, and that saddened me.

So I was very pleased to see our, it must be said, very sensible chairman sign him on.

It also warmed my heart that many of the players had encouraged Carvahal to stay. We do need to improve on his main weakness, though, recruitment. It may be that the transfer committee, or whatever, has hamstrung Carvahal in the transfer market.

Improvements to be made in the transfer market

But, barring Derby, we’ve spent more than all but the parachute money clubs during Carvahal’s time at the club. As Brighton and Huddersfield – and perhaps, most crucially, Aston Villa – have showed, recruitment for winning promotion isn’t just about money. Carvahal’s best signings have been free or cheap – he relishes turning under-achievers into over-achievers – and half our first choice eleven were doing so in our destitute era pre-Carvahal.

Goal of the season: I must admit there isn’t really that much of a standout for me.

Sure, there were the pretty long rangers (hello Ross Wallace; not so much hello Barry Bannan and Fernando Forestieri).

But I really liked our goal at Newcastle for the tenacity, and the one where Hooper headed it back into play against Derby.

Unsung heroes: Ross Wallace and Glenn Loovens. Although I’m not convinced either will or indeed should be regulars next season.

Loovens: unsung hero entering the twilight of his career

Age is catching up with them, but both are examples of how – even in the brutally physical Championship – you can still get ahead, and quite far, with a good football brain.

Key signing this summer: Centre back.

Loovens and Lees, as a pairing, are too slow for us to play with a higher defensive line.

I think that’s an overlooked reason for our unspectacular play this season: Carvahal realised we were vulnerable to counters, when we played an exciting high pressing game, so he withdrew the defensive line, relying (rather successfully if unspectacularly) on grinding out results.

A new centre back will allow us to play a game more natural to Carvahal and certainly more natural to our players, higher tempo, higher up the pitch. We need to recruit for dominance, not only game management.





Player of the season: Keiren Westwood – we are lucky to have one of the best keepers in the league and he rarely puts a foot wrong.

While his season has not been perfect, whenever everything else fails, we can rely on Westwood to stop almost anything coming his way.

Needs to adapt his style?

Thoughts on Carlos: If he has a better time in the transfer window this summer than he did last, I feel like he can finally get the job done.

I worry at times that he doesn’t adapt to changes quick enough, but he has gotten results even when we play badly. If he has learned from the few mistakes he made last year, then we will be good to go.

Goal of the season: Wallace against Huddersfield.

Unsung hero: Gary Hooper, I don’t know how unsung he is to be honest, but he showed his class when he returned from injury. His link up play was a big part of what was missing in the months before.

Key signing this summer: We have been desperate for a pacey winger who can put the ball in the box for Rhodes and Fletcher.





Player of the season: It’s a tough one but Wallace wins it by a nose.

He had an indifferent first few months, before finding his form and playing a major part. He has constantly been involved with everything we have done well this season and he has been the one we turn to when we need to make something out of nothing.

We know he’s got a magical left foot. Was clearly missed after going off early in the 2nd leg of the semi-final.

Thoughts on Carlos: I won’t lie. I wanted him to go after the play-offs.

The tactics played were a farce yet predictable. I was deflated when I saw Bannan was on the left for the 2nd leg, going with a system that previously didn’t work.

Even then, we didn’t go for it as many of us thought and deservedly lost. It’s frustration and a missed opportunity. Negative tactics and the players bought into that and it all stems from Carlos. We can’t dwell on ifs/buts/maybes, he has to get it right next season and hit the ground running or he will get criticised.

This season has been boring to watch at times and not the same standard as 12 months prior. I want to see the Carlos of old, the same one which gave us attacking, aggressive entertaining football.

Goal of the season: There are a few candidates – Forestieri Vs. Fulham, Abdi Vs. Forest, Wallace Vs. Norwich… And again, Wallace wins but for his thunderbastard against Huddersfield. I was sat in line behind the goal and was going in as soon as it left his foot.

Unsung hero: I’m going to be different and not say a player, Andy Rhodes.

He went through a lot at the start of the season with his father passing away and still went to the game at Norwich to be with the team. It says a lot about his commitment and loyalty.

Westwood has made no secret that he appreciates the work he does with him and the other keepers, and of course he played a part in Westwood coming here after coaching him at Man City.

Key signing this summer: Centre back, preferably to partner Lees. We needed one post-Wembley and we’re still waiting. Loovens reads the game well but he’s not getting any younger.



So there we have it.

We’ve celebrated different players, picked many of them apart, and called on Carlos to improve his management ahead of the difficult third season.

Back to the Average White Band, we can’t wait to Go Round Again.

Stick with Owls Alive over the summer as we will be delivering weekly articles to feed your Wednesday fix.

Enjoy your trips to Meadowhall.


Owls Alive
Twitter: @OwlsAlive

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