Tomorrow the Rams travel to Sheffield to take on the Owls.
Ahead of the game I have sought the views of Matt Savage at the SWFC Armchair Fan blog.
How would you assess your team’s campaign last season?
Last season for Wednesday was a bit of a mixed bag, we started off with low expectations as a flat looking team under Dave Jones didn’t raise any hopes or generate much excitement. The sacking of Jones in December proved to be instrumental in our season following a string of poor results such as a first round exit of the League Cup at the hands of local ‘rivals’ Rotherham United, a 4-1 drubbing at Birmingham City and a record of being one of the last teams to keep a clean sheet in the new season.
Jones’ assistant Stuart Gray stepped in to take caretaker control and steadied the ship, earning himself the job on a permanent basis. A fresh wave of enthusiasm flowed through an attacking team and we finished the season safe from relegation weeks before the final day – somewhat of an accomplishment given the form up until the New Year, with the highlight being a 6-0 destruction of rivals Leeds United at Hillsborough.
What can you tell us about Leon Best, new loan signing at Pride Park, from his time at Hillsborough?
Leon Best would have been welcomed back to Wednesday with open arms should he have chosen that option. We brought him in lacking match fitness and he grew with every game. Some fans thought him of lazy and not chasing the ball down, neglecting his defensive duties in the middle of the park but personally I saw it as him holding position – staying high for an option of a quick release. As I say he grew with game time and he knows how to put the ball in the back of the net!
What do you make of ex-Ram Chris Maguire?
Chris Maguire was a forgotten man at Hillsborough, lacking fitness and drive the man was sent out on loan to Pompey. There he recaptured some form, improved his fitness and was promptly recalled to Wednesday where his non-stop running, good delivery and accurate finishing earned him a place in Owls fans hearts. He’s now a fan favourite and we are looking forward to what he brings in this new season.
How has the summer been in terms of transfer activity and, from that, what are you expecting this season?
This close season has been dominated with talks of takeovers and missed targets for us. The ongoing drama of Hafiz Mammadov and his takeover of Wednesday has had a negative effect on targets with players opting to sign elsewhere rather than face the uncertainty surrounding the club.
We have brought in Sam Hutchinson from Chelsea who was billed as the next John Terry before injury curtailed his career – he joined on loan last season and was brilliant so to have him on a permanent contract is somewhat of a coup. Kieran Westwood has also joined to provide competition for Chris Kirkland and Tom Lees from Leeds (free transfer) has proved to be a shrewd acquisition. We also have the ‘big money signing’ (hey, £800k is a lot to us these days!) of Stevie May – the striker from St Johnson who created a buzz in the SPL last term.
What do you make of manager Stuart Gray and the ownership takeover?
Stuart Gray has been fantastic for us – his attacking setup and positive substitutions are a sight for sore eyes at Wednesday so has generated a fresh buzz of optimism and enthusiasm from the players and fans alike. The takeover seems to be dragging its heels a bit now, with weekly news articles regarding the shadiness of our prospective new owner; Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov. If those articles are just fabrications (as he states) then fresh money into the club is what has been needed for a long time. Milan Mandaric was our saviour, he saved the club going out of business and stabilised the finances whilst investing in our youth setup but has said himself that his time at SWFC is all but over as he looks to spend some much missed time with his family.
Who is the danger man of the Sheffield Wednesday side?
To pinpoint a danger man for Wednesday on pre-season matches is tough at the minute, a fortnight ago I would’ve said Michail Antonio as his explosiveness could turn teams inside out at times, but after his £1.5m+ switch to those who must not be named I would say we are more of a team effort rather than looking for his pace to break. If Atdhe Nuhiu is on his game he will be a real handful for the Rams’ back line, he is strong and tall with a powerful shot. He has done a lot of preseason work on his heading as for a big lad he didn’t head much, that seems to have come along nicely.
Lastly, what is your score prediction?
My score prediction for the match is a hard earned score draw, 2-2. Best of luck to Derby County for this season!
Thank you to Matt for taking the time to answer my questions and, of course, good luck to the Owls for the season!