PRESS | Carlos and Loovens focus on Sunday

With Wednesday once more in the frame for ‘the richest game in football’, today’s press room – never the most spacious – was a tighter squeeze than usual.

 

Questions about the two-legged play-off semi-final and heightened expectations flew thick and fast only to be stopped in their tracks by Carlos Carvalhal and Glenn Loovens in a stonewall display to make Geoffrey Boycott proud.

Loovens leaned into a gentle opener, “What is the key over the next two legs?” and killed it with a solid, “To win.”

Is there more pressure on Wednesday after last year?

“I don’t think so.”

Are the expectations higher?

“You have to deal with it.”

Is there a motivation that one Sheffield club has already achieved promotion?

“No, we don’t look at them.”

With the 150th anniversary coming up, do you get the feeling this is going to be your year?

“I’ll tell you in a couple of weeks.”

What are you expecting from Huddersfield’s players?

“I’d rather talk about us, please.”

This was going to be fun. When the Daily Mail man started a question, “How much does your…?” I thought he’d given up on the football and was filing a piece to fuel his paper’s famous obsession with house prices. In fact, he was asking how much Loovens’ big game experience would help Wednesday in the next few matches.

Loovens – it’s all about Sunday

Straight bat

The Dutchman remains in ‘seeing out the innings’ mode when asked about the benefits of playing the second leg at Hillsborough. “You do the job whether you play home first or away first. I don’t really care that much.”

He’s kidding no-one. The deadpan exterior and monotone delivery conceal a real determination to go one step further this year. “We have worked so hard to achieve this… We are ready to go up now.”

This display is all about calm. Loovens is the last man to show arrogance or disrespect; there will be no headlines for David Wagner to use as grist for motivational talks in the Huddersfield dressing room. No outside edge, no mistimed shot.  Put into bat by Carvalhal, our captain plays a blinder to stop us getting ahead of ourselves.

 

The future

In the thirty years since what we now call the Championship play-offs were introduced, many of the clubs who took the nail-biting route to promotion have since bounced right back down again. Think Swindon, Charlton, Notts County, Blackpool.

There was Chelsea, too. Runners-up back in 1988. Automatically promoted in 1988/89. Whatever happened to them?

And then there are clubs like Crystal Palace, Burnley and Watford.

Mr Chansiri’s generosity is not in doubt, but a Premiership model for Wednesday is surely more likely to reflect these and other clubs who have gone up and hung in there, rather than a Chelski-esque splashing of cash to buy the title.

Crystal Palace aren’t pushing for honours anytime soon but they have a development squad producing the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Nathaniel Clyne and Victor Moses. Watford have experimented with academy partnerships producing young home-grown talent like Jaydon Sancho, currently playing in England’s U16s.

How timely then, that Wednesday’s U23s and U18s have had such a great season and look set to produce more young talent to follow the likes of Liam Palmer and Joe Wildsmith from youth team to first team squad.

[In case you missed it,here’s a link to Hugh’s excellent Academy review with Lee Hicklin] http://www.owlsalive.com/featured/2017/05/04/youth-review/

Wednesday’s U23s – Bright futures

Carlos congratulated all concerned at the Academy before swatting away the customary question about Our David’s Our George. Although calls for Hirsty minor to be elevated to the first team have died off somewhat since January, his impressive goal tally keeps him on the social media radar. Carlos wasn’t going there: “Let’s focus on the game tomorrow. This kind of things maybe we can talk after.”

 

Sunday

If fans are seeing the semi-final legs as one match of two 90 minute halves, Carlos isn’t.

“We are completely focused on the game tomorrow. Nothing else. We didn’t prepare absolutely nothing more than the game tomorrow…”

As for the nuances of playing safe away before going for the jugular at a fired-up Hillsborough, the boss would only say, “This isn’t a UEFA match.”

True. Away goals may not count double, but it is hard to believe Carlos and the coaching team haven’t scoped Plans A to Z for the full 180 minutes, including the advantage of taking a lead back to S6 from the John Smith’s stadium.

Perhaps there will be a great flourish of verbal strokes and boundaries if we reach the final. For now, the captain and head coach give the same treatment to any and all speculation that describes Sunday as anything other than 11 players against 11 players on a pitch with one referee and one ball.

Yes, Wednesday have gone seven games unbeaten against Huddersfield, yet in a season where long-standing records against the Owls have tumbled, only the brave would be confident that the situation can’t be reversed. This time, will Wagner discover the tactical flexibility to out-think Carvalhal?

Wagner – thinking

In Loovens’ opinion, “We have to be focused and treat it as a new game and new things can happen.”

Anything can happen. Which is deciding the futures of two clubs finishing level on points with a slugged out limited overs match is both compelling and stomach-churning. Looking on are fans who have waited for a return to the Premiership since before some of the development squad were born. While our U23 squad look ahead to bright futures, at the other end of the spectrum are players nearing the ends of their careers with one last tilt at the Holy Grail.

If Shakespeare were alive today he would be writing about the play-offs. Whether Sheffield Wednesday Part 150 will make us laugh or cry is undecided. But you’ve got to admit it keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Carlos was a man of few words today. With echoes of Henry V rallying his troops, he summed up how so many of us will be feeling when the whistle blows at 12 noon.

“It is a good time to act, not to talk too much.”

 

 

Angela


One Comment

  1. Thanks Angela
    Another beautifully written and informative piece.
    Time for strong hearts, inspiration and real enjoyment now.
    With love
    Jonathan

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