I really enjoyed this summer’s football. I was not looking forward to the World Cup and feared another humiliation for England. There was almost no expectation of success for us and in the end I believe that helped us progress as far as we did. The lack of pressure, for the first time in years, meant our players could play with more freedom. In many ways, I saw parallels between the England squad at the World Cup and Sheffield Wednesday this season. For the past two seasons we have had high expectations and ultimately failed whereas this season I think most reasonable fans would agree our goals are probably somewhat more modest; a respectable league position and some entertainment.
How is it that we can continue to shoot ourselves in the foot? Last season was our 150th anniversary. We managed to make a mess of the kit launch, cakeball and the planned friendly against a top side. We then had a terrible season for injuries with almost a full match day squad out at one point. We then jobbed out to the opposition on a fairly regular basis. As the season wore on most of us were resigned to a transitional season. When Carlos did not leave immediately after the humiliation at home to Sheffield United, I think most of reasonable fans hoped Carlos would turn us round but knew in our heart of hearts it was just a matter of time waiting until he eventually left and we could move on. As the season drew to a close and our players returned to fitness and form we won twenty points from our last ten games. Over the course of a season that would be title winning form. We had a lot to be positive about. How is it possible to make a mess of this?
The first step is to create a bizarre membership scheme with adults paying £90 for a year’s membership . As a member you will receive £5 off each home match ticket purchased. So if you attended every home game you would make a decent saving on the face of it, but let’s be honest our match day prices are extortionate anyway. You also get huge discounts at the Megastore but I am fairly certain many of these vouchers will not be used. The Megastore is an embarrassment with hardly anything worth purchasing. Apart from the kit launch (another thing we can’t get right) I would be surprised if the Megastore actually earned us money. The last few times I have visited the shop I have left empty handed. The very last time I went was with the intention of buying some memorabilia for some foreign friends of mine. I could not find anything suitable that was of sufficient quality. I struggled to find anything that was not downright embarrassing. There are a few other benefits of membership including cheaper tickets for certain games in the season. Overall, it’s hardly an attractive membership scheme.
The second step is to have a staggered release of the new kit and charge £99 for the “pro-fit” shirt for an adult. Then there are delays in stocking the full range including the standard shirt that fans would normally buy. Then there is the sizing. On a popular Wednesday fan page on Facebook there was a post announcing that the club were chasing up stock of the XXXXXL and XXXXXXL shirts. I didn’t get happy alone with the X key there. The stocking of XXXXXL and XXXXXXL is actually an issue. I’m going to be blunt with my next opinion, but if a Championship club is having to stock XXXXXL and XXXXXXL shirts then I would argue that someone has royally cocked up the baseline sizing of the shirts.
The third step is to continue with a pricing structure for match day and season tickets that alienates fans. The prices are too high and although we have had good sales in the last couple of years I would suspect this is more to do with the relative success on the field (a play-off final and semi-final) in two of the last three years. I would be shocked if season ticket sales this season are anything like the past two years.
The final step is to be the only club out of sixty-two to refuse a new deal with the BBC for local radio commentary on live games . I can understand the club’s frustration if the BBC are wanting to reduce the fees by a tenth. However, there are things more important than money in football. The first is maintaining good relations with the fan base. I have heard some “fans” stating that it’s only a few games that will not be covered and that real fans should pay the £4.49 per month for the club’s own internet based commentary service. This argument is flawed in so many ways. First of all, the club relies on the goodwill of the fans. If the fans fall out with the club, they no longer spend their money on the club. The people arguing that it’s just a few games and that they should just stump up the £4.49 per month are not the people affected. This is the difference between sympathy and empathy. The fans most affected by this are the fans that will be unable or unwilling to pay the £4.49 per month. I’m talking about those who are elderly and unfamiliar with the internet. I’m talking about those people who may not be able to easily use the internet; I read a story of a blind fan who relied on the radio to listen to some SWFC games. Just because it does not affect you, it does not mean it does not affect someone. If we believe “We’re All Wednesday Aren’t We” then we should stand by these fans. The club has failed massively in this respect. The fans sustain the club and many of the fans affected, like the elderly, are fans who stood on an open kop through the decades cheering this club on; sustaining this club so that fans of my generation have a Sheffield Wednesday to follow.
We might, might, make money from the iFollow service. But is that money really worth the ill-feeling it has created in the fan base?
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can turn attention to the match tomorrow. Wigan smashed League One last season and will no doubt be riding high on that success. For the Owls it has been a fairly subdued pre-season footballing wise. There have been no signings of note and the suspected fire-sale has not really happened either. Several players left who were out of contract and Jordan Rhodes has left on loan to Norwich. The squad we have left is still more than capable of competing at the upper end of the table on paper. The big question mark is over their fitness. If we can maintain a decent level of fitness throughout the season then there is no reason why we can’t finish top-ten, maybe higher. The lack of expectation this season may propel us further up the table but we can’t expect a lack of expectation to bring success. The club needs a good start to the season with all the off the field problems. My prediction is that we will come away with a point after an entertaining 2-2 draw.
For those interested I have placed two £1 accumulators for tomorrow’s games. The first is a ten-fold accumulator where I’ve chosen games I think there will be over 2.5 goals. The second is a six-fold where I’ve just chosen the winner. I’ve set them to auto-cash out at £400 and £50 respectively. For those not familiar with betting terminology this means I will probably lose £2 tomorrow!
Thanks for reading and I hope the 4,500 travelling Wednesdayites have a safe and fun time tomorrow.
Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.