PRESS | Luhukay hoping for positive end to season

PRESS | Luhukay hoping for positive end to season

It’s all smiles as Jos Luhukay and Barry Bannan face the press.

The relegation threat averted.

The pressure is off.

For now.

But this is football, and the pressure is right back on again in the time you’ve taken to read that sentence.

Jos is starting to relax into his role and revealing a very human side behind the stern reputation. Sure, he doesn’t have the easy charm of Carlos but nor does he have the brittle temperament and desire to showboat to the media.

The likelihood of Luhukay producing a bank note as a press conference prop is really quite remote.

Instead, the Dutchman fields questions with respect, the occasional raised eyebrow and a smile that says, ‘I know why you’re asking but you don’t really expect me to answer that, do you?’

Most of those looks are reserved for questions about contracts and transfer targets.

When asked about his message to the players ahead of Saturday’s game, he allows himself full eyebrows, a broad grin and a matter of fact, “To win.”

After a dismal few months the atmosphere in S6 has lightened. Even the loss against Fulham was illuminating, the Londoners providing a benchmark for the heights we need to reach when we go again next season.

Jos is visibly relieved now safety has been confirmed

Something has changed. Bannan agrees, “The manager’s ideas [and new formation] have come across to everyone.”

If there is any bright side to the absence of Kieran Lee it is that Bannan’s defensive duties are lessened, meaning fewer of those mad charges back to make the last-ditch tackles that are both thrilling and nerve jangling to watch.

The number 10 is happy with the creative freedom unleashed through his more central role.

Wednesday’s improved fortunes coincide with Bannan’s return to fitness, but the wee Scot’s thunder has been stolen somewhat by that man Forestieri.

The audacious, frustrating so-and-so swans back after seven months, scores a couple of stunning goals and there we have it.

 

PENNY FOR THE THOUGHTS OF…

 

Adam Reach.

Our versatile, all-action ace must look on in – let’s say – wonder, as his full season’s contribution of hard graft in wind, rain and snow is overshadowed by a cameo from the love him/hate him/wouldn’t be without him number 45.

The debate about the heights we might have attained had Forestieri been an ever-present is nothing compared to the dread thoughts of the depths we might have plumbed had Reach not risen to the challenge – and silenced the boo boys while he was at it.

Brotherly love (Image: The Star)

From getting full-on abuse from his own fans against Derby back in October through to (surely) a shoo-in as Player of the Season, life as our number 9 sums up the topsy-turvy nature of football in S6 this year.

Reachy gets Bannan’s vote too.

Another credible contender for the end of season awards is Joe Wildsmith.

His outstanding stint as Number 1 is over for now, with Jos confirming that the equally impressive Cameron Dawson will be between the sticks for the remaining games.

No mention of Keiren Westwood.

Westy: looking over his shoulder?

The Irishman is probably very proud of his understudies, but he must also be cursing them for stepping into his boots with quite such alacrity.

As we’ve said before in Press Pass, a prolonged injury period isn’t going to turn Westwood into a poor goalkeeper, but the maturity shown by the twenty-two-year-olds when called to cover him might just shake his ‘indispensable’ tag.

With Westwood’s contract running to June 2019, could there be a temptation to cash in this summer?

Jos doesn’t mention Westwood, not even in passing, when talking about his goal keeping options for next season.

If this were an Agatha Christie adaptation I would take that as a clue…

A couple of weeks ago JL asked us to believe that no contract talks were taking place until the final whistle had been blown on our memorable 150th season.

With Wednesday’s Championship status now secure he’s a little more forthcoming about his plans. A little.

To summarise, whereas players in the doldrums were selected by/foisted upon Carlos (delete as per last twitter feed you read), JL’s focus is on youth.

Starting with the Owls academy – as we’ve already seen in the opportunities he’s given to the likes of Sean Clare, Jordan Thorniley and just last week Connor Kirby.

“It’s important for the club and for the future,” he says. With the U-18 and U-23 squads both performing so magnificently – again – this season that’s got to make sense.

Jos praises the academy staff for their achievements. He also flags up an interest in U-23s from Premier League teams, bringing a different outlook and mentality.

Reasons to be cheerful

And if all this stirs faint memories of ‘you’ll never win anything with kids,’ fear not.

“Typical” Championship players are also on the wish list. Note, a wish list rather than a shopping list.

JL manages expectations a bit like my mum used to with our letters to Santa.

“What is important is what you’d like to do, then see what is possible,” he says.

You ask for a chopper bike, you get plasticine. Mr Chansiri might want to buy us some shiny new toys; Financial Fair Play might say otherwise.

We’ll see.

 

Saturday

 

There’s no doubt that Saturday’s opponents have been splashing the cash, and they’ve got what they asked for.

Questions remain about quite how they’ve managed to fund their astonishing season but as Bannan points out, money is just one part of the jigsaw.

“You’ve still got to put eleven out there who can gel and can play.”

Searching for a winning eleven

As they set their sights on a remarkable 100 + points, it’s fair to say that Wolves have spent wisely and planned well.

Is it fair? When you’re sitting 45 points and 14 places below them you can huff and puff about it.

If you’re a Wolves fan you’ve probably parked the financial probity bit of your brain while you live the dream.

When the free-scoring champs visited Hillsborough in December we managed to keep things respectable – losing by just the one goal, though admittedly extending our winless streak to six and hastening the end of our relationship with Carlos.

Adding another W to Wednesday’s run of WWLLWW since mid-March would be more than impressive.

Any suggestion that Wolves might take their foot off the gas given they are already promoted is laughed off by Jos, who is quick to remind us that this is the champions’ last outing at Molineux this season.

Saturday

“For the home fans they will want to make a good game.” Yep.

So, does Luhukay believe his own ‘try to win’ team talk?

“We are in good shape, in good form…it’s possible,” he says.

Bannan says this season is probably ending too soon for him. For the rest of us, it can’t end soon enough.

How the tables turn. Just two years ago we visited struggling Wolves on the last day of the season and fielded a depleted team to rest key players before Wembley and the Play-Off Final.

We lost the match and our momentum.

Tomorrow’s trip to the Black Country will pitch us against the best team in the division. Wolves will provide one more challenge to see how much progress has been made under Jos.

If we come through it with dignity intact, that’s a start.


Angela
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @ABGalvin

Images: SWFC, unless stated.


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