Sheffield Wednesday FanZoner Carl Mullooly is hoping the Owls can extend their recent improved form.
Wednesday fans must pull together to lift the team
I haven't written a blog for a while (3 months!!) and now seems like a poignant time for me to get back on the horse, arguably following our best performance of the season at Hull City (I've already forgotten about MK Dons knocking us out of the cup). I try to be positive when it comes to football and that's possibly the underlying reason why I haven't recorded my thoughts for a while.
As summer turned to autumn, I seemed to find myself arguing with fellow fans in defending the team, chairman and manager. This was difficult as at times performances were indefensible. I will always bang the drum about sacking managers too soon. It's a part of the game which I hate. A manager is given months, or in some recent cases weeks, in a job.
If he doesn't produce winning football and instant success, it is not good enough for some. As well as the lack of stability chopping and changing managers causes, there are the financial implications. Clubs are struggling enough without paying people off. Jose Mourinho is an exception and normally produces instant success, but most managers need time. As frustrating as it can be, patience is required. Only so many teams can be promoted, and some will be relegated.
Some fans wanted Dave Jones out, and I'd imagine some still do. I'm a supporter of Jones, but even I started to have my doubts. Not that that he was a good manager; far from it. I wondered whether we could carry on with him in charge if there was such strength of feeling against him.
Milan Mandaric stuck to his guns, I'm sure he was asking serious questions of our predicament. I hope the decision to keep Jones proves to be to our benefit. Most of the other teams around us have already changed their manager this season.
I don't think Jones' future as our manager is certain. Things change quickly in football. Maybe not to the media, but I think in private he would admit mistakes have been made. Some of his signings haven't worked out. We've put in some poor performances. Against Hull he got his tactics spot on, which hasn't happened enough this season.
Dave Jones' isn't Gary Megson. Megson loved the club; he showed us at every opportunity. He was doing a decent job and many were sorry to see him go, personally I wasn't. Jones is a little frostier. He doesn't profess his love for the club or say things to please fans.
To him it's a job and that comes across and stops some fans from warming to him. With the unbeaten run and promotion last term, this was masked; yet it doesn't mean he is not committed to the cause and I'm sure he will work hard in trying to take the club forward, given the opportunity. Managers are judged on results, and with the extreme highs of last season, came the epic lows of this.
We've had some torrid times on the pitch suffering consecutive defeats. The players lacked confidence and at times it felt like their efforts were half hearted. Some did however maintain their ability to bicker with fans on twitter! The atmosphere at Hillsborough has been poisonous on occasions.
When we concede a goal at home, we don't seem to get behind the team. Admittedly the players haven't given us much to shout about in many recent home games, but it's got to be a two way thing. Expectations remain high, and perhaps unrealistic.
Now our aim is just to stay in the league, finishing as high in the table as possible. Performances have improved, particularly away. I heard a good point on the fan podcast that the core away support is so important to the team. It can galvanise the players in challenging situations. I believe the key to staying up will be our home form. We may well play poorly again in some games, but now we need to pull together and support the lads. We want fortress Hillsborough back.
We have reasons to be positive. One big plus is the return of Reda Johnson, a key figure at both ends of the pitch. We need to keep him fit. Overall the defence is looking solid and more settled. Rhys McCabe is looking like the player we saw back in August. Injuries have affected his development but he can be an influence in the middle of the park.
We've lost Jay Bothroyd who for me was a negative influence. Most fans didn't take to him, and despite his obvious talent, he never seemed committed. I suppose that's always the risk with loan players, they need to have the right attitude.
Now we must add the right players to improve the squad. I was disappointed we didn't get Ross Barkley back from Everton, but we can't dwell on missed targets. We certainly need a striker who can come in and hit the ground running, by scoring plenty of goals. They are not always easy to find and everyone wants more goals, but hopefully Jones will get someone in. We also need a quality central midfielder.
Jose Semedo has sadly struggled at this level and Chris Lines seems to be out of favour after his injury problems. Paul Corry is still young and needs to learn his trade. David Prutton and more recently Giles Coke have done well coming in out of the cold after loan spells in League One, but we just need that bit of extra quality at this level. Competition is fierce and there are some class players in this league who could and have held their own in the Premier League. Our ultimate goal remains a return to the top flight; and relegation will not assist that.
Up the Owls!
Follow me on twitter @MulOwl