Fan’s View 2021/22 – No.13 – Sheffield Wednesday away

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, October 3rd, 2021  

FAN’S VIEW 21/22 – NO.13

It’s almost impossible to resist noting which are the big clubs and which are the small clubs now swimming in the same pool as us. Funny how no one ever says such and such is an average size club for the division they’re in and therefore exactly where they belong. It’s usually punching above their weight (Accrington) or sleeping giant. Sheffield Wednesday certainly fall into the latter category.

Sheffield is a football city but not at present a successful one especially given the size of the place. It is the fourth largest city by population in England.

Wednesday are not even the best team in Sheffield at the moment with United currently sitting 14th in the Championship. The Blades though having been taken up to the Premier League under Chris Wilder have dropped back from that peak having been unable to drop anchor and become a Burnley.

Wednesday were relegated from the top flight at the end of the 1999/2000 season never to return although they’ve twice reached the play-offs. Since that relegation they’ve had four seasons in two spells in tier three, 2003/04 & 2004/05 and 2010/11 & 2011/12.

Last season they finished bottom of the Championship on 41 points which included a six point deduction. Those extra points if not taken away would have seen them finish one place above the drop with Derby (now there’s another story) now being in League One instead.

Taking points away, appeals against and timings of such judgements are very much part of the off field football world in the EFL.

Wednesday sold Hillsborough to club owner Dejphon Chansiri (well, one of his companies – Sheffield 3 Ltd) for £60m and this was included in the accounts for the 2017-18 financial year giving them a £2.5m pre-tax profit. If they hadn’t done that the pre-tax loss would have been £35.4m, following deficits in the two previous seasons of £9.8m and £20.8m.

The EFL’s Financial Fair Play rules (now called profitability and sustainability rules) only allows clubs in the Championship to lose £39m over a three-year period.

The charge against Wednesday wasn’t the sale itself or the valuation but the timing of it all and when it was included in the accounts.

Perhaps now is the time to say it all sounds a bit fishy as Chansiri made his fortune selling canned tuna. He’s warned his businesses have suffered because of the pandemic.

As recently as May this year it was reported that players’ wages were being delayed and some were still owed money.  Many long serving players were off loaded during the summer.

Worryingly for Owls fans Chansiri has secured debt against Hillsborough with the charge being lodged with the Land Registry a year ago. So if he doesn’t keep up repayments, the ground is at risk of having to be sold and then who knows what would happen?

Some argue that it is unfair on fans for their team to be relegated or denied promotion because of off the field issues caused by owners of questionable integrity or competence and that it should be all about what takes place on the pitch. I understand that but don’t agree with it. A club that spends beyond its means gains an unfair advantage on the pitch over those that don’t.

For all this Wednesday had average home gates of 23,733 in 2019/20 and so far this season that figure is 22,615. That’s loyalty.

Yellows on their travels

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1 OXFORD UNITED 2

Even knowing that Wednesday are a very different proposition on their own patch to Accrington on ours, having witnessed what we did on Tuesday I was confident enough to tell a few people I thought we would win this. Indeed I had intended to put some leftover drinking away day kitty money on a Yellows victory but unfortunately never got round to it. I suspect I would have got tasty odds. Entering added time though that confidence had all but dissipated.

But football can be wonderful can’t it and heading back to the shire I was logging this as one of the very best away days ever and we’ve had some crackers over the decades alongside much misery. Quite likely fans who spend a fortune in time and money following any club will feel the same. On Saturday though we were the happy ones.

Now we’ve got that away win in the bank I feel the season, eleven league games in, has begun for real.

“Sheffield’s a shithole I wanna go home” sang our fans. I know that’s the type of stereotypical chant that is uttered as a matter of course with no thought of originality or wit. That’s the way it is but grumpy old git that I am this bores me. Didn’t have time to discuss with fellow fans because there were lots of them and many were bigger than me but I have to say Sheffield is not a shit hole.

For starters it had petrol. Something that’s rare in my neck of Oxfordshire. It’s got trams which accept bus passes. It’s got pubs. Some great pubs. Prices charged are northern prices.

We picked Kelham Island for pre-match drinks. That’s about two miles from Wednesday’s home. What pub to start in the Fat Cat or the Kelham Island Tavern? We picked the latter and didn’t move until it was tram time back to the ground. The number of different groups of OUFC fans that came in was amazing. Basically took the pub over. The pictures at the end of this FV are courtesy of Dave Underwood.

Choice of beer, excellent. Quality of beer excellent. Prices, way shy of £4 a pint. Bar staff excellent – never had to wait long. There was only three of them as I recall. Speedy enthusiastic youngsters who were bang on it. Advice given was that if we did venture to another establishment the Shakespeare is better than the Fat Cat. I really would like to get back to the area very soon. There’s the Bar Steward there too which we walked past and that’s also in the Good Beer Guide. Just imagine if we had such drinking choices available a short tram trip away from the Kassam. I know where I’d be from mid-day every other Saturday during the season.

And then the match itself. Other than that we won both, the contrast to our previous game was huge. Ground capacity 12,400 v 39,732. Crowd present 5,654 v 22,060. Away following 81 v TBC (1,500 has been mentioned but there seemed to be loads of us there). Sides to ground 3 v 4. Stadium designed with low roof (if you’re near the back of the stand) to create a rocking atmosphere, no v yes. Was there a rocking atmosphere? No v yes. Ran out easy winners yes v no, which means as for tension it was no v yes. I know which of these two experiences most football fans prefer.

This was a cracking game from the very start with two evenly matched teams going toe to toe. Most of the stats prove how even it was. We had the better of the first half but after the break when the home side equalised it looked for a while that they may well then have gone on to do just enough to take all three points.

I was expecting their fans to argue that they deserved something out of the game. They hit the frame of the goal twice and had a penalty appeal turned down. At the end of the contest a Wednesday player approached the referee pointing at his ripped shirt. I’ve no idea whether that happened in the supposed penalty claim incident or even if he’d done it himself.

The truth of the matter was very different if owlsonline.com is a true representation of what their fan base think.  They’re rather pissed off with their team and very much so with their manager.

“Main issue today was the god awful left side of defence with Dunkley and Johnson.” (Remember those two?)

“I wasted 2/3rds of a full tank of petrol for that FFS.”

“Fuck me do we suffer as Wednesday fans, another Saturday night and it’s that familiar feeling in the back of my head of being pissed off by another shit performance.”

“Oh and no penalty for me on Paterson, went down way too easily.”

Regular watchers will have a much better idea what they’re really all about but I think based on this game they’re being rather harsh and have failed to take into account the way the opposition (us) played on the day.

Taking an early lead is always a very pleasant way to begin a football match. On 12 minutes we won a defensive header and sent the ball over the half way line to Marvin Johnson who covered by Herbie Kane turned backwards before having it nicked away from him by our loanee. This sent Cameron Brannagan away and facing Chey Dunkley who back tracked and acted as if to show our man on the outside which is a bit daft given CB is right footed. On the outside he went for a few paces before thrashing a low shot past Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his near post from just inside the box. Many have said that a goal will do Brannagan good. Having got one do we now sit back and watch him fly?

We could have added to this and gone in with a bigger lead at the break. Sam Long firing a corner just over the bar that got to him on the rise after taking one bounce which isn’t usually the way these spot kicks are delivered.

Kane had once again shown what class he is, never seeming to be under pressure as he went about his midfield business.  In the Wednesday ranks they have a player who is similar of sorts in Barry Bannan. BB is nine years older than our man and has been with the Owls since the start of the 2015/16 season and has now made 242 starts and has also won 27 Scotland caps, the last in 2017.

Wednesday weren’t without chances in the first period and Bannan went as close as anyone.

Defensively we looked quite vulnerable down our left where Steve Seddon often had to face two men although when we did concede in the 73rd minute it was from the other flank.

In the very first minute of the second half Peacock-Farrell prevented Matty Taylor at point blank range from converting a Seddon cross.

Before the hour was up Kane had to be replaced after taking a knock and with no rival Bannan began to run things more and drive his side on.  Saido Berahino, who Stoke once paid £12m for, headed an exquisite Bannan chipped centre against a post and much as I didn’t like it I was getting that “it’s only a matter of time” feeling.

Bannan was unsurprisingly involved in the equaliser. He showed for Johnson’s throw and quickly played it back to him. The cross that followed was attacked by Wednesday men with Callum Paterson heading home.  I thought that Jack Stevens had a very good game but can’t help wondering whether he should have come for this.

The momentum appeared to be with them but it was obvious that we were better served trying to go forward than sit back.

Still believing we could win three minutes into stoppage time Nathan Holland ran across field with Bannan resisting the temptation to bring him down. The ball was fed to a rapidly advancing Ryan Williams down the right and we had 2 v 2 in the centre of the penalty area. James Henry moved intelligently across goal and found himself with a couple of touch tight blue and white stripes. Williams hit the ball in low and hard at pace and when it popped up Henry produced probably the most innovative finish we’ll see this season, spinning 45 degrees and using the outside of his right foot to score past a bemused and rooted keeper. It was such a novel finish at the time I didn’t have a clue how it had been despatched – not that I or anyone else cared amongst the maddest of celebrations in the upper tier of the Leppngs Lane End.

That still wasn’t it as there somehow was time for further incidents of note. Bannan unleashed a venomous drive from distance which Stevens touched onto the bar. Some save that was and out came the “one of our own” chants.

Then Dan Agyei won the ball near the corner flag and from a tight angle tried his luck. The save was as good as a goal as a corner resulted and the clocked ticked on to the end of whatever it was referee Andy Haines had decided to add.

This was so good that I’m not going to fire my anger in the direction of those who refuse to have the covid jab. We and they know who they are and I’m glad Karl is dealing with it in what seems an appropriate manner. Perhaps they have Premier League aspirations where only a third of players have been double vaccinated. What madness is this?

Anyway back to football and this win. Our first away victory and Sheff Wed’s first home defeat. Whilst this was happening table topping Sunderland were getting a 4-0 dicking on a rain sodden Fratton Park pitch. This was Pompey’s first win since 17 August. And bottom club Doncaster Rovers with just their second win of the season were giving MK Dons the taste of defeat for the first time since 14 August.

Just goes to show anyone can beat anyone else in League One and many clubs are in with realistic chances of the top six / two. We now look like we have what it takes to be one of those and that wasn’t the case a couple of weeks back but we cannot afford to let our improved standards slip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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