Last season Sheffield Wednesday were extremely close to promotion via the Play-Offs; this season hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, has it?
No, it hasn’t – it’s been a complete contrast to the past couple of years. They started badly in the first game against Preston North End and never really recovered from that. They’ve had a lot of injuries but, that aside, the team haven’t played with the same kind of attacking intent that they had during the first year of Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure.
Prior to his departure, Carvalhal has said that he expected The Owls to climb the table following the return of some of his injured players. Do you think that will prove to be the case?
Possibly, because there are a lot of good players who aren’t available at the moment. The likes of Fernando Forestieri, Tom Lees and Kieran Lee provided the core of the team when they got to the Play-Off Final a couple of seasons ago, and helped them finish in the top six last term. I just feel as though they may have given themselves too much to do; they’re several points adrift at this stage, so they’ll pretty much need title-winning form to make the top six now.
Which player should Dean Smith’s men be most wary of on Saturday?
I’d have to say Gary Hooper. During his time at Celtic and Norwich, people saw him as a predatory goal-scorer - someone who is in the right place at the right time. He’s developed his game since he’s come to Hillsborough; he can play as a number nine, but he can also play as a ten. If Lee Bullen opts for a diamond formation, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see him deployed at the top of the midfield. Alongside Barry Bannan, he’ll be the one to watch.
In which department will The Owls be looking to strengthen in January?
It’s a squad that is lacking in pace, whether that’s someone who plays up front who can run in behind or if it’s someone who can play on the wing and take people on. The other thing they miss is a real physical presence in midfield. Sam Hutchinson has been that guy for them but hasn’t been fit for most of the season; when he’s not there, you notice it.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
Taking into account that Wednesday have drawn so many games, and given that Barnsley also got a point at Griffin Park recently, I’m going to opt for a 1-1 draw.