Monsieur Salut writes: at around this time last season, Dave Briggs* gave us some great responses as a Sheffield Wednesday supporter before Sunderland’s trip to Hillsborough for a Championship game. He also got the result spot-on, saying we’d be ahead at the interval but they’d equalise and the match would end 1-1. Now the Owls are the fancied higher-league opposition – sorry, Eric, but technically the case – we went back to see how he was getting on. Dave would ‘like to think’ there’ll be a comfortable victory for his side, but accepts that team changes mean it could probably go either way. On the other hand, he fancies Sunderland’s promotion chances but is more pessimistic about the Owls’ Championship season, not least because of the impact of FFP transfer restrictions …
Salut! Sunderland: is this at last going to be your season, a return to the top flight despite a narrow defeat on the opening day?
Dave: I’m afraid not, to be perfectly honest with you I doubt we will make the playoffs and mid table will probably be around where we will be come May. Although the opening day defeat was only one goal it was the performance that worries me most. It is however only the first game so you never know but judging by what I’ve seen in preseason and the first game I’m not exactly filled with confidence so far.
Has Jos Luhukay been an improvement on Carlos Carvalhal even though the latter took you to the playoffs in successive seasons? Obviously not in terms of results – what went wrong last season? – but do you feel he’s on the right track?
The jury is still well and truly out on Jos at the moment. He’s another appointment from out of nowhere although he does have good pedigree with three promotions to the Bundesliga on his CV. It’s tough for him as we’ve been on a temporary transfer embargo since April and he still doesn’t know his best 11.
Eight months after coming to the club he still hasn’t seen all of his squad play, some he hasn’t seen train yet either.
This brings me to what went wrong last season, in one word… injury. At one point we had 11 first team players out, all of these were long term injuries too. We had to promote a number of players from the under 23s not just to make up the bench but into the starting 11. It’s no coincidence that in the last 10 games when we started getting players back our fortunes changed and we only lost once in 10 games (winning seven and drawing two).
Like I said however the jury is still out, his tactics and formations at times are questionable (Millwall away we played 4-6-0). It was the right time for Carlos to go, as much as I liked him, but I’m not sure Jos is the man to take us forward.
Chansiri seems an ambitious owner. How far can he realistically take Sheffield Wednesday?
If he was allowed to spend his money without the scandal that is FFP then I believe he would be able to finance us enough to make us an established Premier League club. His investment in to the club so far is more than we’ve seen before at the club but he is now in a position where he cannot put anymore in no matter how much he has or wants to. I could spend all night telling you how wrong the system is with regards to FFP so I’ll leave my answer here for this question.
Is the League Cup important for you, or just a nuisance?
There’s an argument for both, I would say personally it’s more of nuisance due to knowing that you aren’t going to win it and it’s just more games to add into an already hectic season. The argument for however is it’s a good bit of extra income for clubs and a good cup run can sometimes transfer into a teams league form. Back in 2016 we beat Arsenal 3-0 at Hillsborough and I’m of no doubt that result lifted both the fans and the players.
How surprised were you to see our second successive relegation and do you feel we will get back quickly, at least to the Championship?
I think you’ve got to be favourites to go back up and although it might not seem like it now it gives you a chance to get those out of the club who weren’t pulling their weight and start again. I didn’t think that you would go down at the beginning of last season but it soon became apparent it was more a case of when not if. It’s a shame to see a club on that stature with a stadium the size it is go down but take it from someone who’s done it more recently, it might work out for the best in the long run.
Should we be asking for Keiren Westwood and Steven Fletcher back? Do you see both/either as regular features this season and how do you assess them?
Westwood for me is still the best keeper at our club and one of the best in the division. His omission from the match day squad at Wigan was surprising but at the time was thought to be because of the rumours he was off to Stoke City [he stayed – Ed]. Westwood is in the last year of his contract however and is probably one of few players we could get a good fee for even with his contract coming up. We do have two very good young keepers in Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson so it’s not the end of the world if Westwood goes but I for one would rather he stayed.
As for Steven Fletcher, again if a club came in with a good enough offer for him I’d take it but I also wouldn’t like to see him go. He’s been out since December 2017 and has only just came back but for the cameo appearances he’s had in two preseason games he’s looked sharp and offers an alternative to Atty Nuhiu should his form drop.
If Westwood stays he’s got to be number one for me, Fletcher I’m not sure would be first choice upfront given that we also have Fernando Forestieri, Lucas Joao, Marco Matias and Atty Nuhiu at the moment for him to compete with plus Gary Hooper and Sam Winnall to come back too.
Remind us of your highs and lows as a supporter of the Owls?
The 2016 season, the first under Carlos in which we beat Arsenal and Newcastle in the cup and went to the playoff final was one of the best seasons we’ve had in over a decade at least, the football we were playing was fantastic to watch. Asides from that further back it has to be the early 90s for me when we were up there with the Man Utd’s getting to both cup finals in 93 and competing at the top end of the newly founded premiership. Watching players like Chris Waddle, Roland Neilson, David Hirst was brilliant. Even later in the Premier League years watching players like Carboné and Di Canio was a great time at the club.
The lows for me would be our time in League One. The standard of football wasn’t great and for a while it didn’t seem like it was going to improve anytime soon. Prior to Milan Manderic coming in we were on the brink of going bust and those seasons for me were the lowest I’ve had as fan.
And the best and worst players you’ve seen in your colours?
As previously mentioned the likes of your Waddles, Hirsts, Carboné and Di Canio are the ones that spring to mind. We’ve had some shocking players too however, the ones that pop in my head immediately are Jay Bothroyd, Francis Jeffers, Enoch Showunmi, Darren Purse and Ola Tidman
How fierce are Steel City rivalries in your experience?
There’s certainly no love lost between us, it’s tough as being in the same city you have family, friends and colleagues who support the pigs (United) and you have to get along with them but let’s not mess about here come derby day it’s a very serious matter and both sets of fans put friendships aside for the game. Most of the year however it just provides great banter between supporters of each side. Wednesdayites have had it good for many years laughing at United’s misfortune while we were on the up, that changed slightly last season after they not only got promoted to championship so were in the same league but than ran out 4-2 winners at Hillsborough early on in the season.
The World Cup: loved it to bits or couldn’t wait for it to be over and for league football to return?
I was between jobs quite conviently for the entire World Cup and as such watched every game, I’d much rather have some football to watch than the seasons we have with no football at all like what will come next summer. Of course you can’t wait for league football to return but I enjoyed the World Cup especially with England doing so well.
And the Neymar question: does cheating matter any more and if so, is VAR enough to defeat it?
VAR could be brilliant if used to it’s full potential, it needs to be faster and the crowd need to hear/see what’s going on. Diving needs to be clamped down on more, it’s supposed to be a booking but how many times have you seen a player go down in the box, no pen is given but neither is a yellow to the attacker. Being tougher on the rules and using VAR to its best would stamp it out I suspect but it’s also part of the game and I’m not so sure how much technology I would like in the game, it’s frustrating when things go against your team but it’s the talking points and drama it provides that makes football the best game in the world.
Will you get to our match? What will be the score?
I’ve already got my ticket for it but I’m not sure if I’ll make it due to work. I will be watching on Sky Sports should I not make it though. As for the score I would like to think we would come away with a comfortable 0-2 win however it really could go either way as I suspect Jos will play with a lot of the under 23s that came up to the senior team last season and even with our first choice defence were very shaky at the back anyway.
* Dave Briggs on himself:I’m now in training for a new job following a disastrous few months career wise. I have however been to New York this year for the first time which was amazing and extended my season ticket at Hillsborough which will now see me there for the next six years.
Interview: Colin Randall