The thought of having to go through all the drama that the play-offs will bring this season must be concerning for Sheffield Wednesday fans giving their recent history in the competition.
A moment in time – Sheffield Wednesday, Wembley – 2016
Following an impressive campaign in 2016 which saw them finish in sixth place in the Championship under-then boss Carlos Carvalhal, the Owls defeated Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 on aggregate to secure a showdown with Hull City at Wembley Stadium. Over 40,000 Wednesday supporters made the trip to London and would have been impressed by their side’s start to the play-off final as they imposed themselves on a Tigers side who were still feeling the effects of a gruelling semi-final clash against Derby County.
However, after weathering the storm for the first twenty-minutes, Hull’s began to demonstrate the superiority that had seen them finish nine points ahead of the Owls in the standings. Mohamed Diame struck the post for Steve Bruce’s side before Abel Hernandez had a strike cleared off of the line before Moses Odubajo went close.
The Tigers finally made the breakthrough in the second half through a stunning effort from Diame which consigned Wednesday to a devastating defeat and prolonged their wait to return to the Premier League. Carvahal’s side suffered heartbreak once again a year later at the hands of Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town who beat them 4-3 on penalties at Hillsborough in the play-off semi-finals after the two sides couldn’t be separated in regular time.
A poor start to the 2017/18 season saw the Portuguese boss leave the club which allowed Jos Luhukay to take over. However, despite a brief improvement in performances, an awful start to the current campaign saw Wednesday decide to cut ties with the 55-year-old in December. Needing a manager with a previous history of achieving promotion from the second tier, the Owls turned to Bruce who ironically was the mastermind behind Hull’s victory in the 2016 play-off final.
Since taking charge of his first game in February, the former Sunderland boss has transformed the club’s fortunes and has yet to taste defeat. Wednesday are currently 11th in the Championship but are just four points adrift of the top-six and can close the gap on Saturday if they beat Aston Villa at Hillsborough. A victory at the weekend would be extra sweet for Bruce who was given his marching orders by the Lions earlier this season despite leading them to within one game of the Premier League in 2018
There will be no greater incentive for Wednesday to achieve promotion via Wembley in May as it would finally allow the club’s supporters to banish their previous memories of the play-offs and finally secure a return to the top tier after 19 years away.
With Bruce leading a resurgence in recent months, the Owls have arguably the best man in charge as he has no fewer than four promotions on his CV. In what is expected to be a fascinating crescendo to this year’s Championship season, it could end in glory for Wednesday if they continue their impressive form in the coming weeks.
Steve Bruce broke Owls hearts and the idea of a journey into the play-offs will bring up some unwanted memories.
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