Let’s be honest, first impressions can make fools of all of us. Take the last two Sheffield Wednesday promotion seasons.
The 2005 triumph kicked off with a 3-0 home defeat to Colchester and the 2012 glory came off the back of a friendly defeat at Alfreton – by 14-0!
But I think we can safely say that Carlos Carvalhal’s team have made a good start. What needs to be amplified is the symbolic importance of an impressive opening day league win at Hillsborough and a better-than-routine 4-1 Capital One Cup beating of Mansfield.
That second result, with nine changes and five full debuts, was almost as powerful as the first, demonstrating the depth of a much-strengthened squad and the exciting potential of foreign forwards Lucas Joao, in particular, and Modou Sougou. Stevie May and Sergiu Bus haven’t got a look in, puzzlingly perhaps but an indicator of more movement both ways.
Cast your minds back to mid-summer, the appointment of an unknown coach and a state of inertia in the transfer market. Consider, too, the pre-season controversy over a match day price hike that you would have to defy anyone to convincingly defend.
All the positive stuff of 11 signings in between needed some affirmation on the field in front of an excellent, expectant 23,000 crowd on opening day. With half a new team and others awaiting their chance, Wednesday delivered to the healthy extent that there was a debate among fans about the man of the match. And a guy who cleared off the line at one end and scored at the other some 20 seconds later, then being named in the Football League Team of the Week, didn’t rate a nomination!
In truth, every player, including Lewis McGugan as above, contributed against an albeit disappointing Bristol City. That’s a big start in the right direction, as was the unity and organisation of a side Carvalhal had to put together on the hoof. The coach himself is emerging as a highly credible figure despite the earlier ridicule over his record. Not such a mystery now that he has bossed big clubs in Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas. And the owner, Dejphon Chansiri, has been able to display a rationale to his radical restructuring.
But that’s it for now. The need for goals from a centre half and a midfielder against Bristol, and a couple of glaring misses, supported the pursuit of a hang-your-hat-on marksman. Importantly, perhaps, the Owls have advertised to candidates in that field that they can make chances.
Allthough Carvalhal played only Atdhe Nuhiu up front on Saturday and Joao similarly on Tuesday, which on the surface might not have appeared to echo the owner’s pledge to entertain, Wednesday are a side with attacking instincts. It can’t be any other way when your full backs are Jeremy Helan and Jack Hunt, who had a stirring debut.
My Saturday pick, by the way, was Alex Lopez, a clever ball-player who clearly has the vision to unlock defences. Here’s to more arguments of the same kind!