Owls coping with new-found optimism
Optimism has been in short supply in recent pre-seasons at Hillsborough, but the quality of signings coming into the club have been so high that the majority of fans were feeling upbeat – until about a week ago.
Sheffield Wednesday had managed to swap Francis Jeffers and Leon Clarke for Clinton Morrison, Neil Mellor and Paul Heffernan as well as adding width in Gary Teale and Chris Sedgwick. The former Northampton Town duo of Giles Coke and Daniel Jones have also been brought in, along with Jon Otsemobor.
Added to the bulk of last season’s best players, it looked as if Alan Irvine had a squad with enough quality to really grab a promotion chase by the horns in the coming season. Then some bad news started to trickle through.
First, the club were hit by a lovely letter from the HMRC due to a unpaid tax bill to the sum of around £500,000. It’s okay. They were only winding us up. The financial situation at Wednesday is not exactly the world’s best kept secret with the estimated debt, depending on who you believe, to be around £24-27 million.
The problems at Hillsborough can be traced back to relegation from the Premier League in the year 2000 which, in classic Wednesday fashion, happened before parachute payments were introduced. Since then, the club has struggled to deal with operating with a low wage budget. Player performances have reflected the budget with which they were purchased, resulting in more relegations than promotions.
The next piece of bad news to arrive was the acceptance of a fourth bid from Burnley for the services of Lee Grant for an undisclosed fee. Wednesday supporters were under no illusions and fully prepared to lose the services of at least one of their star players, with most believing Marcus Tudgay would depart from S6. Grant was arguably Wednesday’s best player over the last two seasons and the fans will be sad to see him go but, ultimately, it may be a smart move both for the club’s finances and the player’s career.
As good as Grant is, he is by no means irreplaceable. The former Derby man is a solid shot stopper, good in one-on-one situations and has an outstanding fitness record, but he has failed to convince some in his command of the penalty area and defensive set pieces. So Irvine has some work to do in plugging the gap between the sticks at Hillsborough, but his work so far in the transfer market should leave Wednesday fans feeling they are in safe Scottish hands.
Sheffield Wednesday begin the new League One season on Saturday at home to Dagenham and Redbridge, before travelling to Colchester for their first trip of the campaign seven days later.
Written by: Tom Scott