I really did not see that coming. I keep underestimating Jos and this team and many times I am forced to eat my words. It's fantastic. Watching The Owls go to Villa and beat them with a very capable performance goes some way to exorcising the memory of the farcical match at Hillsborough played between the two sides last season; the fixture in which foul after foul was given to the visitors with the referee seemingly unwilling to award Wednesday anything. There really are no words to describe how surreal the situation was. See the image below for the match stats from the fixture last season.
Sixteen fouls to one. Never seen anything like it.
There is still a lot of football to be played this season, and in the few games we have played we have seen the best and worst that this team can produce. The key now is consistency. We have a very difficult game on Friday against Leeds. It is not just the fact Leeds are a good side, or that it's a local derby. In some ways, the Leeds game always feels a little bit more hostile than the Steel City Derby. Don't misunderstand me, I think all Sheffield fans, both Wednesday and United, love to beat the other and the games are very passionate. There just seems to be a little something extra in the Leeds games. It's not just heat, but a nasty sort of feeling as well.
A great deal of credit needs to go to Marco Matias, in my opinion. He was largely ridiculed for his absence in the past few seasons, but as I've mentioned before we never really knew what was happening. This season, Matias has been dependable and weighed in with some very good goals. Although it is a cliche in football it is very much like having a new signing.
Another player who may start to get some credit is Joey Pelupessy. I'm not totally convinced by him, but I think his absence was felt in the midweek game against Forest. As the players become accustomed to playing the way Jos demands, then we may start to see some consistency. I'm simply blown away by how well some of our younger players, and supposed fringe players are doing. The fact that we went to Villa with a starting line-up including Dawson, Baker, Penney and Matias and won with a very credible display is incredible and this does not appear to be a one-off. These players are looking dependable and not at all out of their depth.
In a bizarre sort of way, I'm relieved that our younger players have not burst on to the scene and made headlines. I like the fact these young owls are flying under the radar, so to speak. Sometimes players arrive with a bang and then fade away or crumble under the increased media attention. These players are getting the chance to develop and gain experience with little or no pressure. I said a few weeks ago that this season is a transitional season, that will allow Jos to shape his squad. The fact these young players are getting the game time in now builds us a solid foundation for next season.
In addition to our victory at Villa there were a few surprise results in the Championship. Derby smashed through Brentford and continued their good run of form. Frank Lampard is continuing to make me eat my words. It will be interesting to see if Derby continue in their tradition of falling at the last hurdle.
Elsewhere, Leeds fell to a home defeat against Birmingham. If reports of a massive points deduction are true, those three points could be vitally important to Birmingham in May next year. According to reports in the BBC, deductions of up to 21 points could be applied to Championship clubs. The report suggests that initial deductions would be 12 points with an additional 9 points reserved for more severe breaches of Profit and Sustainability rules. A 12 point deduction would see Birmingham on -3 points. Assuming they needed to reach 45 points for safety, that would require approximately 1.3 points per game, or the sort of season-long haul that would result in a top-half finish. I'm not sure that Birmingham have the quality for that, and clawing back a deficit over that period of time requires a huge amount of mental resilience. At the time of writing, you can get 7/2 on Birmingham to be relegated.
Another result that surprised me was seeing Stoke lose at home to Blackburn. From what I saw of Stoke in the game at Hillsborough last week, I was sure they would find their feet and steadily move up the table. Prior to our game against Stoke, it appeared that their fans were already losing patience with Rowett. This defeat will not make his life any easier. It would be a mistake, I think, for Stoke to act rashly and sack Rowett. The Championship is a very tough league.
Table taken from BBC Football 23/09/2018.
Evidence of just how difficult this division is can be seen by looking at the form guide for the top clubs. No club has won more than three of their last five games. Only Bristol City and Norwich have won three consecutive games in their last five. Only Birmingham are unbeaten in their last five, and four of those were draws. It is a very, very tough division.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.