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The minibus delivers!

May 4, 2008

After a dreadful, nerve-wracking season The Owls finished on a high today, securing their Championship status with an emphatic 4-1 home win against Norwich City.  Any one of five clubs could have been lumbered with the one remaining undecided relegation spot, but in the event Leicester were the literal fall guys, dropping to the third tier for the first time in their history.  Sorry but I’m not crying for them – it was someone else’s turn to feel the pain for once.

Leon Clarke

Wednesday’s fourth goal was scored late on by overweight goal machine Leon Clarke, who had come on as a substitute replacing fellow scorer Ben Sahar, the fleet-footed budding superstar striker on loan from Chelsea.  I didn’t hear it but am told the substitution was described on the radio as “… the Ferrari is coming off to be replaced by the minibus …”, no doubt a reference to Clarke’s ample bodily proportions.

Well Clarke struck in the dying minutes to put the result beyond any possible doubt, much as he had done the previous week, crucially against Leicester.  I liked one comment (from L_Owl_JC) in Sheffield Wednesday fans’ forum OwlstalkThe minibus delivers!” Might have worked slightly better if Leon had been described as a transit van but still worth a chuckle.

Thanks to their final winning flourish, and the tight bunching of clubs’ points tallies, Wednesday finished a respectable 16th, the highest position they were able to attain all season.  On its own the final table says nothing about Wednesday’s torrid season, the 6 defeats on the bounce at the very start, the magical November that won Laws the manager of the month trophy, the subsequent injury crisis that packed the treatment room with a squad strong enough to compete in the Championship, the run of seven draws as the season drew to a close and the distracting and shameful off-field shenanigins which led to a marked fall in attendances.  Wednesday showed extraordinary resilience and stickability in the face of adversity.  Lacking the firepower (through injury) to score the goals needed to notch up the wins, the stalwart young centre backs, Wood and Beevers, made us almost impossible to beat with Gandalfesque “You shall not pass!” resolve.

Right now Wednesday fans are in party mode and it may be a little soon to be thinking ahead to next season, but I do wonder whether Brian Laws will not immediately be at a disadvantage compared with other Championship managers.  His peers may now take a bit of time off (those whose clubs are involved in the playoffs excepted) but will soon be able to turn their attention to new signings and strengthening their squads for another gruelling and highly competitive campaign.  Wednesday still have no chairman and there is no obvious sign that the much rumoured take-over (by a consortium led by Geoff Sheard) will be finalised any time soon.  At best it will be quite a few weeks before there is any leadership, direction and funding and in the meantime Laws will be hamstrung.  Frozen out by his employer’s state of paralysis while the best of the available players get snapped up by competing clubs.

I do though have the highest regard for Laws.  Given the almost impossible circumstances under which he has had to work he has proved to be nothing less than a miracle worker, and quite entitled to claim that, in the same boat, José Mourinho wouldn’t have done any better.  Aside from that, he comes over as a good, honest bloke who really cares about the club and the fans.  He never misses the opportunity to praise the fans and always manages to sound like he means it.  And he probably does.  All power to the man.

I also wonder whether Owls fans might be kinder to Mr Minibus next season, assuming Leon is not moved on.  He quickly became an object of ridicule when he arrived at Hillsborough because he looked like an inept lumbering oaf; his confidence was destroyed and we ended up trying (unsuccessfully) to offload him to Southend.  Following his goals in the last couple of games, particularly the vital clincher against Leicester, fans may feel better disposed towards Leon and might cut him a bit more slack.  When all’s said and done, his goals to minutes on the field ratio over the season finished up fairly impressive.

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