“There was no real joined-up strategy. We went from different types of managers and different types of players with no real explanation. It looked a bit scattergun and I think supporters lost belief in the club. Where are we going? What’s our identity?”
Although appropriate, these words were not, in fact, used to describe Sheffield Wednesday. They were instead uttered about Norwich City, the team currently leading the Championship, taken from a Sky Sports interview with the club’s sporting director, Stuart Webber, on Thursday.
“We could have gone all out to win promotion, appointed Sam Allardyce and signed a load of 32-year-olds,” he adds. But if we didn’t get promoted then we’d probably have gone bust.” This again sounds depressingly pertinent for those, like me, who are of a Wednesday persuasion.
Of course, just because something works for one club, it doesn’t mean it will for another. But the Norwich model, as Webber explains, is not geared simply towards on-field success.
“As a self-funded club, our sole aim is not to win. It can’t be,” he stresses. “The aim has to be to have value in our squad because for us to survive we have to sell when we are in the Championship.”
Norwich are said to have received around £30 million for just two players alone – James Maddison and Josh Murphy – during the most recent transfer window.
But such value would be hard to find within the Sheffield Wednesday squad. It goes back to what Webber says, about “going all out to win promotion” and “signing a load of 32-year-olds”.
It is, however, a problem that – despite his flaws – the Owls manager, Jos Luhukay, has at least tried to address through the promotion of youth team players such as Cameron Dawson, Jordan Thorniley and Matt Penney ahead of the more experienced, and ultimately now worthless (in terms of re-sale value) Keiren Westwood, Daniel Pudil and George Boyd.
Whether Luhukay’s approach is self-enforced, or imposed by his chairman, Dejphon Chansiri, remains to be seen (Wednesday’s previous manager certainly wasn’t doing it). But creating value cannot just be the manager’s responsibility. It requires everyone at the club pulling in the same direction, implementing and adhering to a shared identity – one that the Owls have lacked for some time.
Luhukay, sadly, doesn’t have a Stuart Webber, while Chansiri is notoriously hard to second-guess.
But the sooner the latter takes note of what clubs like Norwich are doing, the better for Sheffield Wednesday.