Friday 27 May 2016

Fan's eye view: What to expect from Sheffield Wednesday v Hull City play-off final

We're nearly, nearly there. As the day of the play-off final against Hull City is almost upon us, here's a few things we can expect.

On the way
Perhaps it says everything about our recent history that, since we last visited Wembley, they've knocked the whole thing down and the famous twin towers are no more. Getting to Wembley will be a laborious mission for most of those descending from Yorkshire, not least when both set of fans converge around King's Cross. The police have already said the trains won't be selling alcohol, too. The walk up Wembley Way will be a special one though and there will be mini-fan parks for each set of fans with bars and "street food" (sounds expensive but is posh pie and a pint no doubt).

In the stands
There's no doubt that we have some of the best fans in the country in terms of commitment to the cause, humour and ability to have a good time regardless of what's happening on the pitch. Anyone who, like me, was among the 40,000 fans who descended on Cardiff for our League One playoff win in 2005 will attest that, when the big days come, we're ready for it. 

It's been pretty grim reading the panicked social media posts and the, sometimes vicious, responses as fans tried to get tickets and, in some cases, were attacked over a lack of commitment. In truth I think everyone understands that most fans would love to see our beloved Owls every week were it not for family commitments, money and life getting in the way of supporting our team in the stands. Ironically social media has made it so much more fun to support Wednesday in recent years, providing easy access to the huge community of Owls fans. Thankfully in recent days the ticket vitriol  has switched to thoughts of the actual game and, judging by the excited social media posts, it's going to be a sea of blue and white. WAWAW. 

On the pitch 
Oh yeah, there's actual going to be a game. There's little doubt Hull have the quality - with players like Robert Snodgrass and Abel Hernandez - to do Wednesday damage and even their recent trips to Wembley (most recently in losing to Arsenal in the cup final in 2014) may even give them extra steel. But the Owls are riding a crest of a wave. The players and fans seem well aware that we've not been the third best team and we're ready to snatch our opportunity with cheek. 

Expect tight defences to play a big part, especially early on - the jitters seen in both teams' second legs will have left them in no doubt that more tough tackling in the midfield is needed. Further forward, these are often days for unlikely heroes. Who would've expected Drew Talbot to have gone down in S6 folklore a decade back? Perhaps this is the day for a sneaky goal from Keiran Lee or Daniel Pudil to decide things? 

On the touchline
Two very different managers will be stalking the Wembley technical areas. Often-animated Carlos Carvalhal has plenty of ego to him and, hopefully, will relish the big occasion. He's been in a final before, with Portugal's Leixoes, and also got them promoted. For his opposite number Steve Bruce, he's already been promoted as a manager via the play-offs, and his experience as a players with Manchester United puts points in the plus column. 

The prize

The figure being slapped on this 'richest game in the world' this year appears to be £200m. Psychologically it's worth much more to Wednesday. There's been a sense, more from others than Owls fans themselves, over the last 16 years that we belong in the top division. Whether or not that can really be true, let's hope they can prove that to be the case. 

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