Sheffield Wednesday and the 2018/2019 Championship
It’s been a bit of an understated summer for Sheffield Wednesday. We have seen the squad trimmed a little with the departures of Jordan Rhodes to Norwich on loan, and Glenn Loovens and Ross Wallace leaving for Sunderland and, probably, Wigan respectively. The sale of Jack Hunt to Bristol City for a reported £1.5 million is good business in my opinion. Even with these departures, and that of Frederico Venancio, we still have a sizable squad. I’ve seen a lot of people posting that we need to sign players to remain competitive. Some of these postings are almost hysterical in their panic.
A few things to remember. In the last three seasons we have finished in the play-offs twice and with the worst injury crisis in living memory we still finished 15th. As the players started to come back from injury our fortunes improved. We picked up 20 points from our last 10 games. We were improving.
I don’t claim to be in the know when it comes to our financial situation but it does not take a genius to work out that we must be pushing up against the financial limits imposed by the governing body. Far from a fire sale being needed, it will not take that much to generate significant improvements in our financial position. It’s not the transfer fees that are the problem but rather the wages. At a guess (and I readily admit I could be way off the mark here) releasing, selling or loaning Ross Wallace (£10,000 per week), Glenn Loovens (£5,000 per week), Jordan Rhodes (£20,000 per week), Frederico Venancio (£5,000 per week) and Jack Hunt (£5,000 per week) will save at least £2.34M a year. On top of the reported transfer fee for Jack Hunt we will have saved over £3.5M without spending on an incoming transfer.
One of the brightest parts of Jos Luhukay’s time in charge so far has been the introduction of youth players into the first team squad. Ash Baker and Jordan Thorniley did not look out of place in their appearances. Adam Reach grew as a player, as did Lucas Joao. Atdhe Nuhiu finally showed exactly what he is capable of and deservedly won a new contract for his efforts.
Looking forward to the season I expect a few more players will probably depart. It’s looking likely that Keiren Westwood will be on his way which will be a shame. He is a fantastic ‘keeper but we have two very capable ‘keepers in reserve. If we can bring in a couple of million for Westwood and free up his wages then we will start to look even more healthy financially speaking.
Last season we paid the price for a lack of fitness. I don’t care what anyone says, from what I saw we were just not fit enough. This, coupled with the injuries, suggests that something was not quite right. I am hopeful that Jos Luhukay will have addressed this and that this coming season will see a normal level of injuries, or maybe fortune will smile on us and we will be injury free. It would be about time we had some luck in this area.
I hope we play to our strengths in the coming season and focus on attack. We have, arguably, the best attack line in the Championship even with losing Jordan Rhodes. We have Steven Fletcher, Gary Hooper, Fernando Forestieri, Lucas Joao, Sam Winnall and Atdhe Nuhiu. In midfield we have Adam Reach, Barry Bannan and Kieran Lee who can all score goals. We need to let these players play to their strengths. We will concede but we will score more than we concede. If we try to work on our weakness we will just end up with an average defence and attack. If we focus on our strengths, we will have a scary attack and a competent defence which we can always strengthen in January if we are at the right end of the table. Failing that we have an entertaining season with plenty of goals. Once we pass through another year of the rolling three-year profit and sustainability checks we can invest again in 2019/2020.
This season is not about expectation. It’s about rebuilding. I am quietly optimistic that this season will be a lot of fun and that’s what football should be.
Is there a single compelling argument in support of the World Cup being hosted in Qatar?
I don’t think there is, but there are plenty of arguments to support the 2022 World Cup being given to another nation.
An article in 2012 from The Guardian  reported that there had already been over 500 deaths from migrant workers that year. Many of these workers are from nations such as India or Nepal who travel to Qatar for work in construction. The BBC cite a report from the International Trades Union Confederation  which suggests in 2012 over 400 migrant workers from India and Nepal died in Qatar with similar numbers reported in 2011 and 2013. In January 2017 a 40-year-old man residing in Britain died in Qatar whilst working on one of the stadia for the World Cup. Zachary Cox fell over a hundred feet when the safety equipment he was using failed . The Guardian  reports findings from the inquest into Mr Cox’s death which state the equipment was not fit for purpose.
The best article I have read on the subject comes from The Independent  which highlights step-by-step how the migrant workers are given false promises of work with good pay and then find themselves in debt from the moment they arrive in Qatar which low wages, horrible living conditions and worse working conditions. There are no euphemisms to cover this up; it is slavery.
Despite lots of figures being thrown about we cannot state definitively how many people have died building the World Cup 2022 stadia. We do know that hundreds of migrant workers have died in Qatar over the last few years. Does it really matter if these workers died building sports stadia instead of hotels and train stations? The point is that they died in what many sources claim to be poor working conditions. FIFA does not want to be political, but by ignoring the situation they are being political. It’s impossible to not be political in a situation like this.
I had reservations about watching the 2018 World Cup because of the situation in Russia but in my opinion what is happening in Qatar is much worse. In the last day or so fresh reports have emerged of alleged corruption at the core of the Qatari bid for the World Cup . It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I hope that human decency prevails and the World Cup is taken from Qatar. Football is a global sport and I wholeheartedly agree that it should move from nation to nation, continent to continent with each tournament.
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