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Two divisions below

January 2, 2008

Five days ago I posted my “Eight for 2008” – my list of 8 things I hoped would come about in the New Year.

Well one of my 8 has come to pass, on New Year’s Day, when Sheffield Wednesday did beat Preston North End at Hillsborough. It may well sadly be the only one of the eight to come to fruition.

The three points were obviously very welcome, but there was really nothing else to cheer about. I had taken my wife and two of the kids as a New Year’s Day “treat”. At the end of the first half, with Wednesday trailing to a goal given away by a hair-pullingly shocking Lee Bullen underhit back pass, I felt I had to turn to my family and apologise for bringing them to the game. The standard of football from both sides was so abject that my wife remarked “This is supposed to be Championship football. There are two divisions below this*! What on earth can they be like?”

It was indescribable. No-one seemed able to make a pass to a colleague. Balls were just hoofed aimlessly. The Owls would win possession and immediately give it away again. No sense of urgency or purpose. Above all no confidence. I can’t recall a more desperate performance, even in the depths of League 1 under Chris Turner.

Another one of my wife’s observed comments was that there was no way anyone was going to score by constructive football; it would take a defensive lapse. And so it proved. Preston benefited from Bullen’s howler in the first half and Wednesday equalised when Preston’s goalie Lonergan panicked in the face of the onrushing Akpo Sodje, misjudged his run, let the ball bounce over his head and left Akpo with an open goal. It was somewhere between farcical and tragic.

Wednesday’s winner, around 10 minutes from time, was courtesy of a penalty for a needless handball.

It’s hard to claim the Owls deserved the win. They did play a good deal better in the second half (Laws must have have given them a good roasting and basting) but still created little. The only two real chances created from open play fell to Preston. They were very good chances indeed and Wednesday had a real let-off on each occasion.

What was refreshing was Brian Laws’s honesty when interviewed on the radio after the game. His assessment was brutally frank and accurate. The game had been shocking and bereft of discernible football, particularly in the first half, and he had the good grace to come out and say it in as many words.

All power to you, Brian. An honest man, committed and professional.

Let’s hope the board can see their way to giving him just a bit of support in the transfer window. If they don’t we’re sunk and it would make no difference if you put Capello, Scolari or Mourinho in charge.

*In the professional game – Ed

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