Behind Enemy Lines: Sheffield Wednesday

MILLWALL are aiming for consecutive home wins and a continuation of their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday afternoon.

Sheffield Wednesday are the visitors to The Den and they arrive with a 100 per cent record so far this season.

The Lions were came from behind to claim an impressive point at The Hawthorns last Saturday, Matt Smith equalising after Kyle Bartley had given the hosts the lead.

Neil Harris’ side returned to Birmingham on Tuesday night and again came from behind but this time managed to win 2-1 to seal progression through to the second round of the EFL Cup, where they will face Oxford at the Kassam Stadium

Alex Grace spoke to Owls fan Joel Lindley from The Owl and The Oak Podcast this week.

Twitter: @owlandoak

Why do you support Sheffield Wednesday?

I support Sheffield Wednesday because, well, it’s all I’ve ever really known. From the age of three or four my dad, who also supports the Owls, took me to a Wednesday game against Manchester United. We only drew 1-1 and it wasn’t a particularly exciting game but I seem to remember they got a late equaliser.

I just remember there being such a good atmosphere at Hillsborough, and this would be the team that would cause me the most heartache later on in life – and like most football fans, that’s what we crave, right?

Also, later on in life I discovered they do a banging Balti pie!

What has been your favourite season following the Owls?

I think my favourite season, that I have a clear memory of, would have to be the 2013-14 season when we had Crystal Palace’s Connor Wickham on loan who made a real impact on the side.

Two memorable results from that season have got to be the 6-0 hammering we gave Leeds United at Hillsborough and a 5-2 walkover against Reading again under the blue lights.

Although we only finished 16th, the buzz around Hillsborough that season was electric, and it was a case of win or lose we back the boys. I feel it’s been a long time since we’ve been like that and though that season didn’t end with anything special we carried that attitude to the following seasons and went on to the play-off final in the 2015-16 season and the semi-finals the season after.

It just shows what a positive attitude can do at a club and I think we’ve been missing that since the departure of Carlos Carvalhal. Let’s hope it returns this season.

And the worst?

I try and stay positive with regards to Wednesday. I think fans across the league tend to panic when things don’t necessarily go as planned.

But I think the worst season that I can remember in my lifetime has got to be 2009-10 season. After an amazing promotion in 2005 from League One, we had a few rocky seasons in the Championship and then came crashing back out of it five years later, missing out on safety by two points. Not a bad start to the season but a run of 10 games without win put us in the red zone and we were yo-yoing in and out of it until the end.

What was the reaction when Steve Bruce left the club in the summer?

Well. It’s left a bitter taste, I’ll say that much.

As we’ve discussed in Episode 1 of The Owl and The Oak Podcast, my feelings are heavily affected by the attitude of Bruce and the fact Sheffield Wednesday could have dealt with the situation better.

I still feel it was a massive kick in the teeth from Bruce not to give the team and fans a chance to show him what a great club Wednesday can be. Wednesday backed him as soon as he was appointed and let him have his time to grieve through a tragic phase in his life and he snapped up the opportunity to go to a Premier League side at the first call.

The move has happened now and there’s nothing we can do about it, only go on and show him that he’s missed out. He’s made his move and he’s living his boyhood dream, even if the majority of Newcastle fans are dead against it.

Is Lee Bullen the right man to take the Owls forward?

I hesitantly say we give him a chance and let someone who is passionate about Wednesday take the reins instead of importing in an overseas manager again.

Afterall, there is literally no other league like the Championship, and I feel managers from abroad sometimes struggle to adapt at a pace quickly enough for the league.

Bullen said in an interview with The Guardian he was “brought up a Hearts fan” and now Sheffield Wednesday is his team. For a club to do that to a player I think shows what passion he has for it.

Our friends down the Lane have a passionate Sheffield United fan in charge and they’re now battling it out in the Premier League.

This is the Championship and no one can ever really tell what’s around the corner, but I feel if Lee Bullen is given the chance, he’ll bring pride and positivity back to the club.

What have you made of Wednesday’s summer business?

After being firmly cooped up under a soft transfer embargo I really didn’t expect any major summer signings. But we’ve scooped a few young players on free transfers or loans that I feel have, albeit early on, already made an impact on the elderly squad.

The likes of Jacob Murphy on loan from Newcastle and Kadeem Harris on a free from Cardiff are two great bits of business, filling the huge lack of pace we had last season. They are certainly players that will cause teams problems so keep an eye out for these two at The Den this weekend.

Julian Borner, an experienced centre-half, is someone that we’ve longed for to accompany the solid Tom Lees at the back. Together I feel they make quite a strong force and I’m excited to see how they progress as a pairing.

Massimo Luongo from QPR brings with him a good reputation so I’m excited to see what he has to offer.

Lucas Joao going to Reading is an unfortunate loss for us, but much needed to start balancing the books.

What are your expectations for the season?

I feel like this season is a chance for a fresh start. After everything that has happened, I feel if we even made an attempt to get to the Premier League we would crash and burn. I think this is a time to build on what we’ve got and be contenders.

If we make the play-offs, great, if we don’t, we go again next season. I think a strong seventh position would be more than satisfactory.

I think we will cause some problems for some teams if we can keep the intensity up that we have shown in the first two games. I hope our finances are finally getting in order, so we don't fall foul of FFP again.

George Saville's last game for Millwall was against Sheffield Wednesday in August 2018

What have you made of Millwall’s summer business?

I can’t honestly say any of the Millwall signings have made my head turn but you have made some solid additions on frees, loans and low-fee transfers.

Jon Dadi Bödvarsson and Matt Smith will be solid additions to any Championship side and they provide plenty of experience.

Nottingham Forest’s Luke Steele on loan was a good move, he was a little hard done by at Forest and is a good shot stopper.

What are your thoughts on Millwall boss Neil Harris?

Don't know much about the guy personally. My missus says he played for her club, Forest, for a short spell and she says he's the type of person to not pull any punches, something that I assume goes down well in south London.

Harris seems to have restored some pride back at The Den after promotion followed by a top-10 Championship finish the season before last, though last year wasn't as strong.

The Championship is a tough league and it's fair to say not many have Millwall as picks to even finish top-half, so he's got a hell of a job on his hands.

I suppose being such a club legend at Millwall gives him extra leeway results-wise. It has to bring good vibes to a club having someone who's made such a difference to the club on be pitch, to make a difference off the pitch too.

If you could sign one Millwall player who would it be and why?

The last time I answered this question, the player I said and who was one of my favourite Championship players only went and signed for Sheffield United. So, I’m a little hesitant to submit this answer!

But after seeing highlights from the first two league games, I’m a little worried about Ben Thompson in the middle. Seems the ball sticks to him and I think Wednesday have been missing that player that will dribble and beat a man.

Fernando Forestieri does it but has a tendency to not stay on his feet, which is a shame. But, yeah, Ben Thompson would make a good replacement for Barry Bannan when he eventually departs.

Who do the Lions need to watch out for on Saturday?

I mentioned this earlier but Jacob Murphy and Kadeem Harris on the wings will cause problems for most teams this season with their pace. #

Also Steven Fletcher is one to watch, ancient as he may be he can still find the net and is as energetic as ever, giving many a centre-back a decent headache.

Will you be at the game on Saturday afternoon?

Unfortunately, I won’t be, as I live in Nottingham and there’s a serious problem of overcharging at Hillsborough at the minute. I can only manage to get to a couple of games a season now and most away games are ruled out due to work commitments unless being very local.

I’m an ex-season ticket holder at Hillsborough, but life happens and giving up the season ticket was a difficult thing to do. I still wear the blue-and-white stripes with pride on the streets of Nottingham, that’s for sure.

What’s your predicted Wednesday starting XI and formation?

To be honest, I don’t think I would change much from the win against Barnsley but, as we are away, I can see Bullen making a change or two.

Dawson; Odubajo, Lees, Borner, Palmer; Luongo, Hutchinson, Reach; Murphy, Fletcher, Harris.

Finally, a score prediction?

As our game is on Super Six this week everyone can have a go at this.

I’ve gone for a 3-2 Wednesday win.

While I feel Millwall are a side that competes with every single team they face, especially at a cauldron such as The Den, I think Wednesday’s strong start and positive mental attitude will pull the three points our way.

Graphic: @ShedCreative