The Thursday Preview: Sheffield Wednesday Vs Southampton
Before anyone accuses me of sidelining the real unfortunates of the Football League by focusing on these two League 1 behemoths, I should say that I’ve picked this tie because I’ve already seen both sides this season, most recently Wednesday in their 3-2 defeat at Plymouth last weekend. What’s more, I’m rattling this off during my lunch hour, and the mere thought of dishing out some uninformed drivel on Walsall or some such brings up visions of literally tens of readers switching off their computers in disgust.
So, to Wednesday, who along with Huddersfield, Brighton and Southampton, were my pre-season favourites. 10 points from their opening four games indicated that I, like a lot of pundits, was right to believe that an incoming bunch of Championship regulars would bring glory and redemption for a previously underwhelming Owls squad. Contemplating a season of sell-out Wednesday away ends up and down the country and a Barmy Army Bandwagon bundling its way back into the second tier, I looked on with envy as they prepared to make their 2010-11 Sky debut at Brentford three weeks ago.
But then the club’s well-documented financial mess loomed once again. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but the most serious threat yet of administration and insolvency came about around the same time as when Alan Irvine’s League 1 Galácticos began to wobble. That game at Griffin Park ended in a one nil defeat, and it was followed up by two further losses against Carlisle and Plymouth. Having lost three on the spin, Wednesday have lost ground and momentum to some of the Big Guns.
As I keep telling myself in regards to my own team of wastrels, it’s still very much early days, yet the manner of defeat in Devon last Saturday would have worried supporters. Under the cosh from the early stages against a side that had gone six months without a home win, Wednesday not only failed to take advantage of an extra man, but twice surrendered a foothold in the game after they’d managed to level through James O’Connor and Tommy Miller.
Nicky Weaver was less than imposing in goal, and Darren Purse painfully exposed for just about everything in the middle of defence. O’Connor, Darren Potter and Giles Coke were simply anonymous in midfield. Going forwards, Marcus Tudgay ducked and dived out wide and had the beating of his man every time, but with Neil Mellor and substitute Clinton Morrison (try reading that man’s name without sighing) leading the line, Wednesday looked anything but the League-beaters that I’d had them down as just a few weeks before.
Form is, as they say, temporary while Class is permanent. True enough, Tudgay, Coke, bench-warmer Gary Teale and the missing Jermaine Johnson have each enjoyed positive reviews during their careers, but can a club with such weighty worries on their mind make short-term progress when they are equally reliant on rotters like Morrison?
Southampton, suffering from slightly different but nonetheless well-documented problems, stand in their way this weekend, and if the feature with Clem on The Football League Show last Saturday is anything to go by then Nigel Adkins is aiming to turn things around with a PMA. I mean, seriously, the man didn’t stop beaming for the whole section. Even when confronted with the Nicola Cortese question, Adkins didn’t blink an eye before laughing things off with a wink and a(nother) smile. There was a slight sniff of piss-take about it all, like the ex-Physio (did I just resort to cliché) was enjoying a little foray down on the South Coast. He may have brought his family for a tour of St Mary’s, but rest assured that it would all be over in a few short months.
One Saints fan had the temerity to suggest that he was happy enough with the appointment, and that he’d give Adkins ‘a few games’ to prove his worth. If that’s the case, then Adkins will need his new outfit to get their shooting boots on following five consecutive failures to hit the net. Judging by what I saw last week, then Lambert & Co don’t have a better chance than against Wednesday’s blundering back four. An away win for me.