Since our last issue, it has been anything but quiet at Sheffield Wednesday. At a time when many of you may be returning to Sheffield, here is your opportunity to catch up on all things Wednesday.
The 2020/21 campaign will be a struggle for many clubs. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed football as we know it, and its financial impact has been felt across the country, especially in the lower divisions.
Before the pandemic wreaked havoc throughout the footballing pyramid, Sheffield Wednesday supporters knew they had an uphill battle ahead. An ageing squad, a strained relationship between the team and supporters, and extended runs of poor form left the Hillsborough faithful in no doubt that the summer of 2020 would be crucial in kickstarting a rebuild.
Then, on 31 July, Sheffield Wednesday were handed a 12-point deduction that will take effect when the new season begins. The punishment was handed to the Owls for a breach of the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules. The EFL declared that Wednesday had “included the profits from the sale of Hillsborough Stadium in the club’s financial statements for the period ending July 2018.”
The sale of the stadium, which was to a company owned by Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri, was included in the 2017/18 accounts in order to display a pre-tax profit of £2.5m. Had the money generated from the sale not featured, the club would have recorded a pre-tax loss of £35.4m. Rules state that Championship clubs can only lose £39m over a three-year period, and Wednesday had already recorded a deficit in excess of £30m over the previous two campaigns.
The saga has rumbled on for a long time, as the club were charged and referred to an independent disciplinary commission back in November 2019. A conclusion would undoubtedly have been reached quicker had the pandemic not struck, but regardless, Wednesday have been left to stew.
Although the blow is a considerable one, it could have been much worse. Fortunately for the Owls, they were not found guilty of breaching a duty of utmost good faith, preventing the loss of further points. Even more fortunately, the deduction was not applied for the 2019/20 campaign. Garry Monk’s side finished 16th on a tally of 56 points, meaning that a 12-point deduction would have plunged them into the depths of the relegation zone and into League One.
The underwhelming finish was in spite of the Owls being firmly in the promotion hunt at Christmas. As Wednesday plummeted down the division in 2020, they found themselves short of options, confidence, and fight. Eventually, they found themselves without the vocal support of the Hillsborough faithful.
Although the pre-determined deficit somewhat dampens excitement for the new season, there is certainly a blend of anticipation and relief at the prospect of a new era. Monk has finally got some of his most trusted lieutenants on board, as James Beattie and Darryl Flahavan have joined the coaching staff. The pair have worked with Monk at several clubs during his managerial career but did not immediately move to Hillsborough following Monk’s appointment. Former Leeds United cult hero Andrew Hughes has also been added to Wednesday’s ranks, joining as First Team Coach.
On the pitch, following a mass exodus, work has begun on bolstering the ranks with fresh faces. Many players who were, and still are, synonymous with play-off reaching squads of 2016 and 2017 have moved on. They have not moved on because they lacked talent, but because they also became synonymous with the painful mediocrity that followed. Young midfielder Fisayo Dele-Bashiru was the first to arrive, joining from Manchester City, and was followed into S6 by defender Chey Dunkley. The latter completed a switch to Wednesday from Wigan Athletic, who the Owls would have joined in the third tier had their deduction been enforced last season.
Their arrivals have proven that despite the precarious position they find themselves in already, players still want to pull on the blue and white shirt at Hillsborough.
Despite initial uncertainty, Monk now seems certain to be at the helm when the 2020/21 season kicks off on 12 September. Despite a summer of trials and tribulations, Wednesday have a newly assembled coaching team of experienced figures, and a new-look squad is being moulded. They have been dealt a bitter blow, but after a period of stagnation and decline, there is reason for optimism at Hillsborough. A new, hungry and committed squad will give Wednesday the best chance of escaping a relegation dogfight and although it is early in pre-season, the signs are promising.
Wednesday’s Steel City neighbours continue to represent Sheffield in the limelight, and Owls supporters would admit they are far from being able to match them. However, Rome was not built in a day, and a new era is being readied in S6.