To say 2016 has started with a bang would be an understatement for most Wednesdayites. Unbeaten in both league and cup and continued good run of home form has not gone unnoticed.
Plus, Jack Hunt, Barry Bannan, Athde Nuhiu, Sam Hutchinson and Glenn Loovens have all pledged their future at Hillsborough, signing long-term deals. This has certainly exceeded my new year expectations, with more to come I am sure. Remember the transfer window doesn’t end until February 1.
A few weeks ago I provided evidence that Sheffield Wednesday need an average of at least 1.7 points per game to finish in the play-offs. They currently average 1.66 points per game – almost there? With the play-offs very much in reach, nothing would make me happier than to pull away from the likes of Ipswich, Brighton and aim for the top four. With further players expected to arrive during the transfer window, I believe this should be a realistic expectation.
Sheffield Wednesday’s fantastic run of home form continued last Saturday as they convincingly beat Leeds United 2-1, I mean 2-0 (wink) in the Yorkshire derby. Hooper again bagged two goals on the day, and he looks set to join on a permanent deal.
The Owls are 150/1 to win their remaining home games this season, not a bad bet in my view having only lost one game at home so far this term, to high-flyers Middlesbrough. So four wins out of four this year, and the sky is the limit for the Owls this season.
As ever, the Wednesday faithful have been an instrumental 12th man throughout the campaign. The highest home attendance this season was on Boxing Day, which saw 28,523 flock into Hillsborough against Birmingham, with Wednesday running out 3-0 winners on that occasion.
This week, I interviewed Sheffield Wednesday lifelong fan Natalie Dean. Natalie was present on our TV screens just before Christmas on BBC’s The Apprentice featuring Lord Sugar. Natalie, a passionate fan, gave her insights on the past, present and future of Sheffield Wednesday.
First things first, how did you come to support Sheffield Wednesday?
“Strangely, before I was born my parents and grandparents were Leeds fans. They used to go to a lot of the games but became fed up of the hostile atmosphere at Leeds games during the 80s. So by the time I was born in 89, they had seen several teams play and taken a real liking to Sheffield Wednesday, and my Dad was attending all the games and my Mum most of them. So I had a Wednesday kit from a young age and a season ticket from around the age of six, so I guess it’s just second nature to me!”
What was the first ever Sheffield Wednesday match you attended?
“I can’t actually remember! I had a season ticket as a child from around 95 so it would have been a home game around this time, or just before.”
Growing up, who was your favourite childhood player, and why?
“Benito Carbone, without a doubt! As a child I used to just love watching him play and he was probably the first ‘hero’ I had. I used to go to my own football training always wearing my Wednesday shirt with ‘Carbone 8’ on the back. There was a point where my nickname even became Carbone, as people who didn’t know my name so would just call me that! I also remember being a mascot around 97/98 against Bolton at home. That morning my parents told me Carbone was injured and I was devastated that I wouldn’t get to meet him or see him play that day. My brother and I were on the pitch watching the teams warm up, and my brother tapped me on the shoulder and told me to turn around… Carbone was stood in the tunnel, so we ran over and got his autograph and a picture. I was over the moon!”
Who currently is your favourite player at Sheffield Wednesday and why?
“I would probably say Fernando Forestieri. He sometimes reminds me of Carbone and it’s fantastic to see someone who works so hard but is also capable of producing moments of complete magic! It’s been a long time since we saw players like this at Hillsborough.”
What was the best ever Sheffield Wednesday match you attended?
“This is a difficult one. If I take out the obvious ones such as promotion and beating Leeds 6-0, I think my most memorable game is probably the one against Arsenal in the late 90s when Di Canio pushed Paul Alcock over and we ended up winning with a late goal from Lee Briscoe. This game really stands out to me for some reason, and I remember my parents bought me a shirt with Di Canio’s name on before the game and he never played for us again!”
There have been many highs and lows for Sheffield Wednesday fans over the years, what is your favourite moment and why?
“In more recent years it has to be the promotion from League One in 2012. That season was amazing and it was made all the better as it looked for a lot of the season that Sheffield United were going to beat us to automatic promotion. The game at Hillsborough when we won 1-0 was the point where Wednesday fans started to believe we could do it. The last game of the season then against Wycombe at a sold out Hillsborough was just fantastic, like a massive party!”
What are your thoughts on current boss Carlos Carvalhal?
“Carlos is so refreshing to have at Wednesday. He’s the first foreign coach we have had and all the fans seem to have really taken to him. He’s got us playing football that is enjoyable to watch, fans are enjoying going to games and the players look to be really enjoying been at the club, it’s great to see. He also comes across as very charismatic and his interviews are a joy to listen to, which we haven’t really had from a manager in recent years!”
What are your thoughts on current chairman Dejphon Chansiri?
“I think it’s definitely a very positive thing for the club that he decided to invest in us. He clearly has ambitions to get the club to the Premier League as soon as possible and despite what he has said publicly, I do think he will be disappointed if we don’t go up this season.”
Sheffield Wednesday are currently sat in and around the play-offs, what are your expectations this season?
“My expectations at the beginning of the season were just that we started to develop as a team, play football that was more enjoyable to watch and just improve on last season. Now of course this has slightly changed and I will be quite disappointed if we don’t make the play-offs now. I don’t believe there are six better teams now than us in the league so we should be finishing in the top-six. If we can slightly improve our away form we don’t have anything to worry about.”
The January transfer window still open until February 1. If you could buy one realistic player on deadline day, who would it be and why?
“For me the best business we can do this window is to sign Gary Hooper permanently. We all know that we have been lacking that ‘proper goalscorer’ at this level for a long time and he really is that. I think we have seen over the last handful of games just how important a player he can be for us, not just in terms of scoring goals, but also his all-round play.”
Where do you see Sheffield Wednesday in three years?
“Definitely in the Premier League. If we don’t get promoted this year I am sure that it will happen next season. I hope in three years’ time we are pushing towards mid-table Premier League.”
The saying ‘onwards and upwards’ is very much becoming a fact at S6, make note, dare I say it, that the play-off final is on Saturday, May 28.
You can follow Wednesdayite Natalie on Twitter – @NatLD182