PRESS | Carlos’ adventures in Wonderland
There were moments in today’s press conference when I felt I’d slipped through a wormhole to another point in time.
To a place where Wednesday really haven’t just signed a new striker. Or where Carlos really believes that Fernando Forestieri has been giving his all.
Or the land where Liam Palmer really doesn’t mind if it’s his or Hunt’s name on the team sheet.
I swear, that’s what they said.
As he entered the press room – okay, it’s a space that’s variously used for doping control, distributing team suits before away games and storing odds and ends but let’s call it a press room for now – as he enters, Liam Palmer remarks on how many reporters are there.
“Were you expecting someone else?”
A self-deprecating comment with an added twist given that ‘someone else’ might well have been officially introduced to the press today.
As of Thursday afternoon, the official line is no striker has been signed.
And in a world of fake news and bad behaviour, I guess we should be glad the club goes about things in the right way. Waiting until the ink is dry and respects have been paid to Norman Rimmington is important in football’s cynical age.
Liam Palmer clocked up his 150th appearance for the Owls in last weekend’s cup defeat at Middlesbrough.
His loan spell at Tranmere aside, our number 16 is that growing rarity – a one club man.
It sounds as though the 2013/14 Player of the Year would like to keep it that way. “The club’s moving in the right direction, the foundations are there. Why would anyone want to leave?”
Talking to any academy product who has worked his way into the first team is bound to draw comparisons with youngsters in the current Wednesday pipeline.
George Hirst’s name is ever-present in these conversations. The interest in his future reinforced by rumours he is on several Premier League January shopping lists.
Today, his coach fields questions about Our George in the same way he has since the dawn of time.
“The worst we can do is to put him very fast in the first team.
Hirst: turning heads (allegedly)
“He is a big talent,” says Carlos, “he will do better and better in the future.
“Even if we have ten strikers, one or twenty-five, he will be one of them.”
Describing Our George’s dad as a club legend, I just check that the Head Coach doesn’t attribute the same status to “Liam’s dad, Carlton”.
No. That’s a relief. I’m back in the same universe as the rest of the room.
This is the universe where playing several games a week is the go to excuse for inconsistency.
Having impressed all-comers and Sky viewers in the win against Newcastle, Wednesday have hit a performance plateau.
Palmer acknowledges that mid-week matches increase the pressure, but both teams are in the same boat in terms of recovery time.
Tiredness can take its toll, “Sometimes you tell your legs to do something but they don’t always listen.”
TO BOLDLY GO
And yet, despite some less than inspiring team play in recent games, Palmer notes “we’ve managed to keep the points ticking over, and that’s vitally important.”
Carlos has often criticised heavy EFL scheduling
The demands of the Championship schedule are a recurrent theme with Carlos.
The chances of winning the National Lottery jackpot are 1 in 45 million.
Carvalhal can’t really believe “It’s a lottery when you play again after 48 hours.”
That’s what he says in the press room, but in the real world the man renowned for analysing every aspect of the game seems to have narrowed the odds on gaining points.
Whether through luck – he admits that last gasp equaliser against Preston was luck not skill – or judgment; Carlos himself is quick to remind us that 25 games in, we stand one place higher than at this time last season.
So why is there an air of gloom hovering around on social media?
Why, on the cold, miserable trudge away from the festival of drab that was our goalless encounter with Wolves, were so few Wednesdayites celebrating the fact that since beating our visitors at Molineux back in November we’ve only suffered one loss in eight league matches?
It might be something to do with where you stand on the space/time continuum between the universe in which Forestieri is “the best player in the Championship” (Palmer) and the one where his body language is, er, questionable.
Either way, Carlos assures us Nando’s new contract has finally resolved “that problem” from the beginning of the season.
A welcome end to that saga
It might be that despite having a squad that should provide cover for those 48-hour turn around games, a fair proportion of the recent intake are under-performing, if they are performing at all.
While he’s generally very protective of his players, Carvalhal concedes some of the signings may have been mistakes.
“All the coaches in the world when they bring one player they are thinking this player could be good but… Sometimes it’s possibly the player, sometimes it’s possibly the environment, sometimes possibly the coaches, but not all the players can perform like we want to.”
It might be that for the first time in many a year there are three Yorkshire clubs in the Championship top six, we’re at the bottom of that league-within-a- league, and we’re not all convinced we’ve got the beating of the other two.
Saturday’s visitors might provide some answers.
The pool sides of Dubai may have shaken with laughter when David Wagner’s men headed off for a pre-season survivalist trip in Sweden.
Forestieri: on the spot in our last meeting
They ain’t shaking now.
Our gutsy one-nil victory over Huddersfield in October not only premiered the ‘all hands to the back post’ penalty routine but also kept the Terriers just one point off the top spot, while pushing us up to seventh.
If the loss to a single Forestieri goal was a blow to their confidence, you wouldn’t notice.
Huddersfield are still high flying and looking good for a play-off place, perhaps even a sneaky automatic promotion.
As usual, Carlos talks about strategy, focus and the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
“They like the ball, we like the ball. The game there [The Galpharm/John Smith’s/McAlpine/yeah, that one] was balance. We deserved to win but there was not too much difference between the teams.”
With such a tight match in prospect, he believes Wednesday’s edge will be the “extra 5 or 10% energy” that comes with home advantage and a lively crowd.
When Carlos says, “We are in football to live this kind of moment” I have an involuntary shudder.
There are two wormholes into Hillsborough on Saturday.
One reveals a stadium of deathly quiet, where the lone voice of Tango rages against the fact that Leeds have beaten Derby to rise above their two Yorkshire rivals. Nando has gone missing and we witness the start of a slow, unstoppable slide down the table.
And then there’s wormhole number two. A universe wherein Leeds and Derby have had a Friday The 13th horror show. S6 is rocking at the quality of our passing, Forestieri lives up to his ‘best player in the Championship’ tag, and we all walk home with a spring in our step.
What are the odds on that?
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