Key player: Lewis Wing
The obvious selection here would be Barry Bannan, but the Scot could well move on after six years in Sheffield. Lewis Wing, signed on a season-long loan from Middlesbrough, will need to replace Bannan’s creativity if he does leave.
He has taken a circuitous route to professional football. As a teenager, he gave up the sport in favour of golf. After getting his handicap down to five, he went back to football and bounced around a few non-league clubs in the North East. As a 22-year-old, he scored 27 goals in one season for Shildon, and was subsequently picked up by Middlesbrough. This will be his first season below Championship level since his Shildon escapades.
Despite his name, Wing usually plays through the middle as an attack-minded midfielder. He enjoyed his most successful season as a professional in 2019-20, scoring seven goals and providing two assists for Boro. He has been, however, jettisoned by Neil Warnock in favour of more defensively assured players.
A title of a YouTube compilation of Wing’s highlights calls him the “Championship KDB”. That is typically giddy, but Wing could reach double figures in goals if Wednesday give him the freedom to break into the box from midfield.
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Manager: Darren Moore
Darren Moore moved across South Yorkshire to take the job at Hillsborough in March, having previously managed Doncaster. He hasn’t spent much of that time in the dugout. He contracted Covid in March, which left him with pneumonia. However, he was well enough to take charge of Wednesday’s last game of their Championship season against Derby County – hopefully issues with his health are behind him.
Moore, who enjoyed a journeyman professional career and played twice for the Jamaican national team, is one of the few black managers in English football. The lack of opportunities for black managers is a topic Moore is vocal about, saying that there must be more diversity in the backroom staff.
Attacking football will be on show at any club Moore manages. His Doncaster side scored more goals than promoted Blackpool but conceded as many as relegated Northampton last season. Combined with an affable off-pitch manner, it is easy to see why Moore is so popular with the fans of the clubs he manages.
Wednesday have flittered between 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 formations in pre-season – whichever Moore plumps for on opening day, the Owls will not hold back.
Rock: Dominic Iorfa
In a parallel universe, Dominic Iorfa is gearing up for his first season in the Premier League. Linked with Watford last summer, either they looked elsewhere or Wednesday turned down their advances, and a year later Iorfa finds himself playing in League One.
A team-mate of Jack Grealish in the England U21 side that won the Toulon Tournament in 2016, Iorfa never kicked on at Wolves and was allowed to leave when they were promoted to the Premier League.
Iorfa was a hit in his first season with the Owls, named as their player of the season in a defence that was a bit like Trigger’s broom – was it still the same defence if every part of it, except for him, changed? In his second season, the one just gone, he only managed ten games because of injury struggles. You wonder if he would have been the difference between relegation and survival.
A rangy defender, Iorfa is good in the air and covers ground quickly for a man of his size. His strongest skill may be his tackling. In his player of the season campaign in 2019-20, no centre-back in the Championship made more successful tackles than Iorfa’s 57.
Key signing: Florian Kamberi
Sheffield Wednesday simply did not score enough goals last season. Only four teams in the Championship scored fewer than their 40, and the problem was particularly pronounced among their strikers. Jordan Rhodes, their main front man, only bagged seven – meaning Calum Paterson was often forced to play as a makeshift centre-forward.
Florian Kamberi must fill that gap. The 26-year-old has been a nomad in his career so far, moving between clubs in Switzerland, Germany and Scotland – Sheffield Wednesday represents his first foray into English football.
The Swiss-born Albanian international is tall, but his strengths lie with his feet. Darren Moore’s style, preferring passes into feet over balls over the top, should help Kamberi. He will be tasked with bringing their dynamic attacking midfielders like Wing and Josh Windass into the game – they may end up being Wednesday’s primary goal threat.
Kamberi will have to score more goals than he has previously. He’s never managed to score ten goals in a season. All of League One’s top sides last season relied on someone who could bag nearly double that – nine goals for their main striker wouldn’t cut the mustard for Wednesday.
Sheffield, a city at the edge of the Pennines, is famous for its hills. For the blue half of the city, it’s been all downhill for the last few years. Compounding this, for their fans, was seeing their cross-town rivals shoot up from the third tier to mid-table in the Premier League.
Maybe things are turning for Wednesday. Darren Moore was a smart appointment – his track record is excellent, he tries to play football the right way and he will be focused on the job now he’s overcome his battle with Covid. They have trimmed a bloated squad. Plus, it must have been pleasing to see the suffering the rest of the Premier League inflicted on Sheffield Wednesday last season.
They look likely to be solid defensively – Iorfa is probably too good a player to be marshalling a third-tier defence. Going forward, they have a proliferation of talent but few obvious goalscorers. Wing and Kamberi both making it into double figures would seriously aid their promotion push.
Sheffield Wednesday fans believe they are too big a club to be back in League One. They are hoping that Darren Moore can put the steel back in the team from the Steel City – they might just be right.
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