PRESS PASS | Carvalhal at Christmas
A season to be jolly?
Carlos and Sam Hutchinson were on press conference duty today.
To Hutchinson it’s all about the football season, not the festive season.
The boss on the other hand starts by wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone. “I hope the future can be more bright to all of us, to all the families and all the world.”
There’s more to Hutchinson than the growling, prowling, two-footed-challenging, last minute goal scorer.
It’s that thing when you hear one of your straight male friends say out loud in a pub, “Hasn’t Hutchinson got lovely hair” and everyone nods in agreement.
Wednesday fans have got a bit of a crush on Our Sam at the moment. And he’s loving it.
Hutch came along to a press conference back in August with his young daughter in tow.
Obviously a doting dad, he has no regrets about spending the festive period on the training pitch and on the road rather than at home with the family.
In he strides today.
Busting with confidence and sheer joy at the fact he’s playing.
Striding home for Christmas
Having retired at just 21, the 27-year-old has grabbed his second chance with Wednesday and is relishing every minute.
“I’m happy playing on Boxing Day. I’ve missed so many [matches]. I’ve had so many times at home. It doesn’t bother me at all. Playing the team at the top of the league, full house, I can’t wait.”
Hutchinson also praises the coach’s approach to building enthusiasm for training and playing over the holiday period – evidenced by last year’s 3-0 Boxing Day home win over Birmingham City.
Giving nothing away
Every press conference starts with a question about injuries, followed by a cautious response from Carvalhal.
“I can’t tell you… I will not mention here because I don’t want also to give information to outside, to our opponents. You must understand.”
Having said that, he mentions “five or six players” may not be available on Monday.
Carvalhal uses the traffic light red, amber, green system for his coaching risk register.
And today we’re on amber. “I think the red alert is not in place, even though we have some doubts about some players. I think we can consider yellow alert at this moment.”
“Negative headache”: The festive period is full of them
One indicator of a red alert, he notes, is having to call up someone from the under-23 squad.
So it seems young George is the source of a “negative headache.”
Carlos prefers the “positive headaches” caused by the options that open up when all the squad is available.
Nurofen seem to have the headache variant market sewn up, but I’m not sure they do something for that.
Buying and Selling
Hutch is all for strengthening the squad to push for promotion – “the fans want the premiership, so do the players.”
Carlos is both open and cagey about the January sales. The social media debate about who, where and what the squad might need seems to polarise around a centre-back or a centre-forward.
The boss has played his cards close to his chest.
While advising us not to expect a revolution, he has hinted at being open to adding quality at the right price, without specifying positions.
Hutch hasn’t read the brief on that one, blurting out without hesitation: “More goals. We definitely need to win games and score more goals.”
Goals: no problem for Gayle
Given the failure to convert chances this season, plus the injury woes of Hooper, Fletcher and forgotten man Matias, might a striker be on Carvalhal’s wish list?
He’s done enough window shopping to know that a decent Championship goal scorer would cost between £9m and £12m.
Under Financial Fair Play, that’s unlikely to happen unless the books can be balanced by some business in the opposite direction.
There’s no mistaking a few squad members have been aware since August that they are welcome to leave. “I was very clear, eyes in the eyes with them.”
Perhaps January will see some stalwarts of 2015-16 find a club that wants them more than – and pays them as much as – Wednesday.
But it’s not January. That transfer window isn’t open yet. It’s December and we’ve still got the matter of Newcastle away to deal with.
Monday morning will see the squad head up the A1, buoyed or perhaps intimidated by the knowledge that three teams have left St James’ Park with all three points so far this season.
A repeat of last year’s League Cup victory would be very welcome.
But a lot of water has flowed under the Tyne Bridge since then.
Our goal scorer, McGugan, is surely on the list of January leavers. The Magpies have replaced Mr McLaren with Sr Benitez.
And of course, while we were trying take off to the Premier League via the play offs, Newcastle parachuted down.
Carvalhal has never played against one of Rafa’s teams, but he admires the Spaniard.
“Benitez stayed there [after relegation], even though he is a coach with a big CV, he accepted a challenge there. I like this kind of profile… It will be a pleasure to meet him and I can speak in Spanish or in English!”
If you’re Sam Hutchinson you see it like this, “Newcastle is another team, another three points. They’re in the Championship like we are and they’re in there for a reason. They are there to be beaten…we’re never going to give up.”
Fighting talk from our number 4. As you’d expect, Carvalhal’s assessment is a bit more measured:
“This is probably the toughest game of the season… Newcastle is a massive club. Fantastic stadium. Fantastic support from the fans.
“Very good players. Very good coach… they achieved first place so far because they deserve it.”
As with every match, Carvalhal and his staff will have been analysing Monday’s opponents, looking to exploit their weaknesses and contain their strengths. They have a lot of strong points.
Facing the league’s top scorers as our defence is rediscovering its balance is one straw to clutch at. Another is the hope that opponents of Newcastle’s calibre can bring out the best of the Owls, defensively and in attack.
Whether the headaches at the final whistle are positive, negative, or tense nervous only time will tell.
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @ABGalvin
Images: SWFC (except Benitez – NUFC)