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After the excitement, thrills and spills of the last few performances, it’s time for the Owls to host ‘Yorkshire rivals’ Hull City this weekend. Is Hull really part of Yorkshire? The media seem to think so but for some reason I don’t think we’ve ever really seen them as such.

Hull is, of course, renowned for its culture, so much so that it was selected as the UK’s City of Culture for 2017. The competition to secure this title was fierce, with the other short-listed cities of Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay left disappointed despite their own world-renowned cultural statuses. Hull has celebrated this with a number of events, such as the ‘Hullywood Icons’, based on the notion ‘What if Hull was really Hollywood and the people of Hull were film stars?’ Well……the jokes write themselves really, so I’ll move on.
In this edition of GWTP we’re going back to the 2007-08, and Saturday 22nd September 2007. It’s hard to believe all of this is over 10 years ago already – writing this stuff certainly makes me feel old sometimes.

This was Wednesday’s seventh game of the season, and so far the team had accumulated a total of precisely zero points. Defeats to Ipswich, Wolves, Charlton, Bristol City, Preston and Burnley had seen the Owls unsurprisingly rooted to the bottom of the table. The poor start had come as a real shock, as Wednesday had finished the previous season on a roll and had started the season as an outside bet for the play-offs. Unfortunately, the form of the previous season seemed to have led to a couple of the team’s better players being courted by others, with Chris Brunt having already left for West Brom and rumours starting to circulate about Glenn Whelan.

Manager Brian Laws was at a loss to explain the poor start but was under no illusions that things needed to improve : “I scratch my head in disbelief sometimes because the quality we have within the camp far exceeds the results we are producing”. Such ‘quality’ included players such as Peter Gilbert, Kenny Lunt, Francis Jeffers and Burton O’Brien but the point was still well made. Thankfully, of course, the point about quality exceeding results wouldn’t apply in the future…….

Interestingly, Brian had realised that something needed to change and had decided to shake things up by “restructuring training”, including bringing Sean Macauley into first-team training and changing the approach “to make our players feel calmer”. This actually made quite refreshing reading, as opposed to the usual managerial ‘insanity’ approach of trying the same thing over and over again and getting the same results.
Laws had also highlighted the need to bring in some experienced ‘voices’ and, subsequent to his programme notes being written, the old heads of Graham Kavanagh and Michael Johnson came in on loan, and both made an impact.

This lack of ‘voice’ is something that seems to have plagued Owls teams throughout the years. Is it just me or do our teams always seem to be quiet, polite, and just a bit too ‘nice’? We’ve had the odd player with a bit of mouth (Carlton Palmer immediately springs to mind), but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be the type of player we end up with. It’s not all about volume of course, but a bit of communication in the middle of the park can work wonders.
Glenn Whelan was the subject of the programme’s main interview and, predictably, much of the discussion centred on the poor start and how it could be turned around. Whelan always struck me as a bit of a tricky character, and was suitably reticent when asked about his future at the club : “I’m a Sheffield Wednesday player and while-ever that remains the case, I will continue to give 100 per cent to the football club”. Which, as we all know, is footballer-speak for “I’m off as soon as I get the chance but I’ll run around as much as I can in the meantime”. Whelan was off in January to Stoke, but, to be fair, I think is one player who couldn’t be accused of being a shirker.

A couple of the other features in the programme gave a fascinating insight into the dressing room at the time. Firstly, in a Q&A with new signing Richard Hinds, the reply to “Who is the funniest player in the squad?” was:
“I wouldn’t say anyone is particularly funny, they are a miserable, horrible lot! Kenny Lunt’s voice sticks out, you can always hear Kenny”
Then, in a similar feature entitled ‘Wednesday 101’, Jermaine Johnson was asked to list his pet hates. Before you ask, water bottles was not one of them, but JJ was keen to point out that he too was not keen on Mr Lunt : “…all his talking and bad jokes, he’s just not funny sometimes”. Hmmm, it certainly seems that our Kenny – or Lenny as he was also known – was not the most popular figure.

Not only were there some major problems on the pitch – and maybe in the dressing room – but the club had also suffered massively over the summer after Hillsborough suffered serious flooding in June. I’m sure we all remember the rather troubling pictures of the pitch under a few feet of water and a four-page feature in the programme reviewed the events of the day and the subsequent recovery operation.
Looking back, it’s easy to forget just how much disruption there was, and what a massive effort it must have been to get the stadium ready for the first home game in August. The flooding of the pitch caught the headlines but other areas of the stadium that were devastated included the changing rooms, the boardroom, the ticket office and the superstore. In fact, as the feature pointed out, the changing rooms contained “mud and silt, and other undesirable bits and pieces”. Bit harsh on the players that, but there you go.
Finally, there was a small interview with another new signing, goalkeeper Rob Burch, who had joined in the summer from Tottenham. There was nothing hugely interesting in the interview, I only mention it as I suspect that most of us had completely forgotten about him.

In opposition

Hull had struggled in the previous season, but were to end this season with promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history through the play-offs. Their manager at the time was the always brown Phil Brown, then in the very early stages of this managerial career.
The Hull squad included a couple of forgettable Owls loanees in Dean Windass and Michael Turner. Other names that stand out from their squad list are Nick Barmby (always good for a goal or two against Wednesday), Damien Delaney, Michael Bridges (remember him?), Jay-Jay Okocha and Brewster Frizzell. I have no idea who he is by the way, but with a name like that it’s a shame we never heard from him again.

The game.

The two loanees Kavanagh and Johnson indeed made a difference, with a bit of leadership and experience. (Kavanagh was to become an expert at terrible Potter-esque set pieces later in the season but he did well here).
The defining moment of the game came in the 40th minute, as Franny Jeffers showed why he was once a multi-million pound England striker with a beautiful curler into the Kop net from 25 yards. This strike – Jeffers’ first for the club – was hopefully to be the first of many, but sadly a disgraceful challenge by Ryan Shawcross of Stoke a few weeks later dashed any hope that Franny could push on this season.
Still, Wednesday finally had some points on the board and, eventually, managed to drag themselves away from the relegation zone as the season went on.
Next up
As Christmas approaches, we have a nice easy game against Wolves live on Sky. They have certainly proved to be difficult opponents for the Owls over the years so we might not be reviewing a Wednesday win for that one……  

Unread article 01/12/2017 at 16:45


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