Dave Briggs* is a Sheffield Wednesday fan who has seen good times, wretched times and better times. The good times presumably included seven years deejaying in Greece.
Last season’s playoff final defeat was a bitter disappointment but he relished the challenge for promotion after so much underachievement in recent years. Dave thinks we may need to be patient, too, and should not be too downbeat if we cannot make the top six at the first attempt. And he rather likes the three Owls players – Steven Fletcher, Keiren Westwood and Ross Wallace – with SAFC connections …
Salut! Sunderland: are we about to discover that thinking you’re a big club counts for nothing in the Championship?
Dave Briggs: as Villa found out last season being a big club and coming down from many years of Premier League football doesn’t guarantee success in the Championship. As much as you’ll probably hate to read this the only team to really come down and dominate the league the season after is Newcastle, although that said it wasn’t as easy for them last season as it was the last time they came down.
As for big clubs, there are a number of them in this league, when you think of stadiums, fan base and previous history you can name quite a few in the championship.
The word ‘tragedy’ is one to be avoided in purely footballing contexts when discussing Sheffield Wednesday and its stadium but how hard has it been to endure so long a period outside the top flight, with relegations and dark financial clouds, given the Owls’ mighty history?
Since dropping out of the Premier League 17 yrs ago we’ve been on a horrible journey and it’s only the last couple of years that we’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel. The heart and soul was ripped out of the club by the previous board, the club was massively in debt and on a downward spiral that didn’t look like ending.
Seasons in league one looking at what we had become was horrible. We then got to breaking point the debt was out of control and a winding up order was creeping up on us, four days away from going out of business was probably the worst week I had as a fan, thinking ‘are we going to be the next Portsmouth?‘
However Milan Manderic came to save us, steadied the ship and then fulfilled his promise to sell us on to someone who can take us to the next level. I’m pretty confident with the owner we have now that it’s only a matter of time to see us back where many Wednesdayites believe we belong.
Playoffs and Sunderland don’t mix. You must have been gutted by your experience …
To be perfectly honest as much as the playoff final defeat at Wembley to Hull City was devastating at the time it was a fantastic season, we didn’t expect to be in the playoffs so anything from there was a bonus.
Last season however was a different story, although I knew top two would be a push, playoffs were definitely the minimum expectation. The season panning out as it did, I believe we missed a golden opportunity to get up last season. We had a lot of our best players out injured during the season, if we had a fully fit squad I do believe we could have challenged for the the top two and going into the playoffs being the only team that was in it the year before we thought we were favourites. The league will be a lot harder this season and I don’t believe we’ll have a better chance than we did last season any time soon to get promoted.
How do you rate the owner/manager duo, Dejphon Chansiri and Carlos Carvalhal and can they get you back up at last – and keep you there?
The chairman has been fantastic for the club and he and Carlos seem to have a great relationship. I recently attended a meeting with the chairman and his commitment to getting the club promoted is there for all to see.
We have the money and should we get up, I can see the chairman investing in the team to make sure we stay up. FFP however is restricting him at the moment he openly admits that and he’s frustrated by the fact he cannot spend more when other clubs have parachute payments and can afford to spend more than us.
As for Carlos Carvalhal, he has never stayed at a club past two seasons, in his 3rd season now at the club he has to get it right this season I feel, although the majority of fans are behind him he also has a number of detractors who feel his lack of a plan B and sometimes negative tactics are hampering the team somewhat.
I do believe in him, we’ve finished 6th and 4th in his first two seasons gaining more points than the previous in each season but time will tell this season as to whether he’s the one to take us to the next level or not I feel.
Keiren Westwood, Steven Fletcher and Ross Wallace are the obvious current links between our clubs. Assess them and their likely roles in the coming season?
Kieran Westwood is one of the best goalkeepers in the division and has kept us in games single handily at times, his distribution leaves a lot to be desired at times but there is no doubt he’s a great shot stopper.
I like Steven Fletcher, I think him up top with Gary Hooper is our best pairing. He came on leaps and bounds towards the end of last season after struggling to find his feet a little but I personally think he should start every game along side Gary Hooper. The problem he has is there is plenty of competition for the front two spots with Hooper, Fernando, Jordan Rhodes, him and Sam Winnall all vying for two spots. I’m not even including Nuhiu and Joao in that list, either.
Ross Wallace is another one I’m a fan of, he does drift in and out of games at times but his ability to score from range and his direct play means for me he’s a player that should be in the squad. He has competition on the right wing now with the capture of George Boyd from Burnley so we will see how things pan out for him this season.
Your highs and lows as a supporter of the Owls?
The highs are mainly from the early 90s as you can imagine, I was only young back then but it’s a time a look back on fondly and the likes of Waddle and Hirst in the famous blue and white.
More recently the promotion season from league one is particular high, not only because of the promotion but the fact we pipped Sheffield United to 2nd place after they were five points ahead with two games in hand going in to the run in! I’d also put our run to the playoff final in 2015 as a particular high point as apart from the final itself it was a fantastic season.
The lows are the relegations from the Premier League and from the Championship, a particular last game relegation showdown with us and Palace sticks out in memory. The time in league one and being days away from going out of business are also low points.
I’d also cite the sales of players like Di Canio, Glenn Whelan and Chris Brunt as particularly low points too.
And the players who have given you most pleasure to watch in your colours? Or wish you’d been around to see from past times?
As I’ve already mentioned the 90s were brilliant, the likes of Hirst, Waddle, Pearson, Roland Neilson etc, the list could go on, then there’s the two Italians Di Canio Carbone who brought a flair to our game.
Who should have been allowed nowhere near the colours?
Hahahaha this is also a list that could go on! Jay Bothroyd and Darren Purse are the names that instantly pop into my head but trust me this is a lot more!
If not covered in your first response, give us an idea of what to expect in the Championship in terms of style, quality, passion
You will find there are quite a few teams in the league that have quality albeit maybe individually in some cases. The top end of the Championship isn’t too far off the bottom end of the Premier League in these terms and you only have to look at the kind of teams in the division to see the size of the clubs in the league. Couple that with the sides that have successfully been promoted and stayed in the Premier League and you’ll see the gap isn’t that big, although with the extra money in the Premier now, I feel you’ll see a bigger gap form.
The style of play can be a little more direct at times but there are still quite a few teams who try to get the ball down and play. I’d say it’s probably not as fast paced as the Premier League. But as mentioned before, if you look at the bottom half of the Premier and the top half of the Championship it’s not too dissimilar.
The referees are a lot worse in this league though and you’ll see some random decisions go and not go your way during the course. I’d say maybe the Championship is a bit more aggressive only in the fact that referees seem to let more go.
As for passion, you’ll see plenty of this, probably even more so. I’ve spoken to a few fans of clubs like Watford and Stoke City, a few have mentioned that for them in some ways they find the Premier League is boring, only because they know they are good enough to not go down but also aren’t going to challenge for the title or Champions League places. In the Championship, most teams believe that this could be their year and know that on their day any team can beat the other.
You also have big clubs like Villa, Leeds and ourselves who have a big fan base and travel well.
Try your luck at guessing the score when Sheffield Wednesday host Sunderland. A prize awaits the winner and Owls fans are warmly invited to enter. Click anywhere on this caption …
Honest assessment of where our two teams will finish this season? Your forecast on the ups and downs?
If I’m honest Sunderland have been through the mill a little and maybe a little while in the Championship might do you good, get rid of the deadwood who don’t care about the club and start afresh. My thoughts going into the season is that Sunderland will probably have a season like Villa did last season and take a little while to adjust. I wouldn’t be surprised to see you finish midtable but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see you challenging either, it depends how quickly you adjust.
What I would say is don’t get too downbeat if you aren’t in the top six come the end of the season. You’ll have to allow time to clear the decks and build again.
As for Sheffield Wednesday, I obviously hope we can challenge for promotion but this season it will be hard, there’s a good eight teams all capable of being up there and you always get at least one or two surprise packages, look at Huddersfield last season.
You have yourselves, Villa, Middlesbrough, Hull, Leeds, Reading, Fulham, Derby, Norwich, Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday all capable of getting top six spots so it’s tough. You also have teams like Wolves starting to splash the cash that could gatecrash that pack too.
It’s probably too early to predict the top six, I’d probably install Middlesbrough as the favourites, solely on the basis of the squad and Gary Monk at the helm but the rest of the bunch could be made up of any of the above mentioned teams.
As for relegation, I think the newly promoted sides will struggle, hopefully Sheffield United more than most! Burton Albion could be in trouble also. I’d probably pick a bottom three of Millwall, Sheff Utd and Burton Albion.
And are diving and other forms of cheating as prevalent as in the Premier? Does it matter any longer and if so, how do we stamp it out?
Diving does exist but not as much as it does in the Premier League, probably down to the fact there’s more British players in the league and we tend to be a little more honest.
As for stamping it out I think this is coming in soon anyway but I like the idea of decisions being reviewed independently after a game even if they aren’t in the referee’s report and action being taken, like bans if players are found guilty. It doesn’t help the team that they cheated against, I know, but will make them think twice if it means serving a two/three match ban if they are found to have cheated.
The only way you could do it in the match is introducing a system where you can refer to a video referee but this slows the game down and although it makes sure that referees make the right decisions I do think it takes a bit a way from the game as to why we love it so much. Major decisions can effect games and apart from the team on the losing side of decisions it provides a great talking point for the rest of us. I’d be happy to see the technology introduced so long as it doesn’t slow the game down too much.
Best ref, worst ref you’ve seen at this level?
Darryl Deadman is worst by a country mile, Andy D’Urso is another.The younger Madley brother referees in the Championship and is okay. Funny how it’s only the bad referees that stick in your mind, isn’t it?
Your thoughts on Sunderland – club, fans, city and region, Simon Grayson?
As a club you have the size, stadium and the fan base but over the years you’ve been let down somewhat by the club itself. You have to admit you’ve been flirting with relegation for a few years now. I honestly believe it might be a good thing for you, clear out the deadwood and start afresh.
As a city it’s a nice place to be, you have the university there and you’re close to the sea. I must admit I haven’t spent much time in Sunderland itself but I’ve been around South Shields and of course the city centre for drinks before a game before. As a whole it’s a nice region and the people are friendly up there.
Simon Grayson could be a shrewd appointment for you, he knows the division very well and had Preston in the top half of the Championship on a shoe string budget. He’s used to being at a big club with expectations from the fans following his time at Leeds so given that experience he could be the right man at the right time for you.
Is there anyone (left) in our squad who you’d welcome at Hillsborough?
I’ve always like Lewis Grabban as a player so I’d take him at Hillsborough but I think it’s fair to say we don’t really need an extra striker. Lee Cattermole in midfield is someone I’d have, too.
George Orwell famously (notoriously?) described Sheffield in disparaging terms (‘Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World’). That was 1936 but tell us how badly he got it wrong!
Sheffield is a great city and has everything you could ask for, the city centre isn’t all that but they are currently spending millions revamping it in order to compete with other city centres and the ever popular Meadowhall Shopping Centre.
We have two universities, two football clubs, we’re on the edge of the Peak District and within an hour of four airports. It’s a working class city and we’re friendly folk.
As a season ticket holder, you will presumably be at our game. What will be the score?
On recent evidence I’d say 1-1 at the moment, as I’m writing this you are 1-0 up at Norwich at halftime [and it got better – Ed]. We haven’t got anywhere near to the form we are capable of so far and there’s a lack of cohesion in the side. You’re also adjusting to the league and I think you’ll enter the game at Hillsborough with an element of precaution. I’m saying half time 0-1 Sunderland and 1-1 full time.
Dave Briggs on himself: I’m 32, live with my partner 10 minutes from Hillsborough and work in a call centre for a major telecoms company. I had a season ticket from 15 years old for three years before moving to live in Greece for seven years as a DJ. I was home for the winters (October-April) before going back again for the summer, so didn’t have a season ticket in those years but went to the games when home. Since returning to the UK a few years back I’ve renewed my season ticket and travel to as many away games as I can too. I’ve been a fan as long as I remember, my mum started taking me to games when I was five and that was it I was hooked.
I’m obsessed with football and when I’m not watching Wednesday, I’m watching whatever the live game is on Sky Sports, much to my partner’s annoyance! I take a keen interest in my club, have a three-year season ticket and attend steering group meetings with the chairman, chief executive and a small amount of other supporters once every so many months too.
Interview: Colin Randall