It is startling when you think about it. The team that has eight straight home wins is not Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea. It is not even anyone in the Premier League. It is actually Sheffield Wednesday, marshalled by old fashioned manager Gary Megson and Milan Mandaric.
If you look at the team, no one really stands out. Stephen Bywater, Buxton, Jones, Batth, Johnson, Prutton, Semedo, Lines, Marshall, Madine, Lowe, none of them are world beaters. Many won’t ever advance from League One. The manager Gary Megson has been good at one team, West Brom, but has not succeeded anywhere else and was chased out of Bolton. And Milan Mandaric, who when things go slightly wrong gets a very itchy trigger finger.
This could all become a nightmare situation and yet apart from some dodgy away form at the start of the season, including a 5-1 defeat to Stevenage, Wednesday have been amazing. Some really hard fought victories and ending a lot of good form, MK Dons and Hartlepool especially. But this hasn’t been why people are starting to think Wednesday might be a rising force once again. It has been that home form. Eight games have been played at home, and eight have been won. 2-0 against Rochdale, penalties against Blackpool, 2-1 against Notts County, 3-2 against Scunthorpe, 3-1 against MK Dons, 3-0 against Exeter, 3-1 against Chesterfield and 2-0 against Colchester. None of these scores are spectacular but they have all been solid victories against a good side. So, how come no side has been able to beat Wednesday at Hillsborough?
Well after many years of winding up orders and doomsday predictions, the Wednesday crowd can see a bright future. Milan Mandaric has wiped the club debt out, and has invested wisely in players, instead of the mad flailing about . That is why instead of Darren Potter and James O’Connor at over hyped prices, we have got Jose Semedo on a free and Ryan Lowe at a snip. There is so much optimism about, many are saying there isn’t a squad as strong as this since the early nineties. That’s high praise, and some of that praise has to go to Megson.
There were many grumbles when he was appointed, especially with the reuputation. He has messed up Bolton pretty bad, and Wednesday fans were hankering for some free flowing attacking and passing after the frustrating tactics of Alan Irvine. Megson did not promise that. His starting form did not please either, with him taking a month to get his first win, at Carlisle thanks to a scrappy Tommy Miller goal. After that things started picking up but we still ended up a disappointing 15th. We would not accept that again. Megson though has a knack of signing great players, and apart from Julian Bennett, Chris O’Grady and Danny Uchechi, there hasn’t been many problems with them. Stephen Bywater has been a good fill in while Weaver is out, Rob Jones has really organised the back, Danny Batth has plenty to give, Jose Semedo has been a rock in midfield, Prutton has been good at both ends of the pitch, Chris Lines has been able to provide much threat from set pieces, Ben Marshall has been simply amazing, Ryan Lowe has showed much promise and the three I mentioned earlier have showed potential. The man who has really been attracting the plaudits though, and other clubs, has been Gary Madine.
He has scored eleven goals this season, and they have been vital. Many will say most of them were tap ins and easy headers, but you could say that about Javier Hernandez and many of the other great goalscorers. It is about being at the right place at the right time, and Madine has done that. His link up play with Ben Marshall is simply outstanding, and maybe in the future you could see them partnering up in the Premiership. It has been that good. Oh and don’t forget the set pieces. Before under Alan Irvine, we were lucky if we got to see a corner go past the first man. Now if we get a corner, there is always some excitement brewing, with hope because we know with Rob Jones and his formidable 6ft 7inch figure we could score. Also, we have cracked the long throw. Both Julian Bennett and Ben Marshall have long throws that cause panic in the box.
Sheffield Wednesday have been great at home for a reason. Fantastic work rate and a crowd that will back them all the way. Also GARY MADINE GOAL MACHINE.