SWFC - What Could Have Been...
In our current state of staring relegation in the face, Matthew Auckland has his say on the class of 2005 and what could have been, and looks ahead to a bright future...
On the 29th of May 2005 the phoenix rose from the flames when Sheffield Wednesday overcame Hartlepool United in a hard-fought league one play-off final.
The victory led many Owls fans to believe that with one of the most hungry, vibrant squads around anything was possible. However a little less than three years later this perspective has changed completely.
Following the recent sale of influential midfielder Glenn Whelan to Stoke City it has left only Richard Wood and Lee Bullen from the squad which took part in that epic final in Cardiff.
The heroes of that day - Jon-Paul McGovern, Steve MacLean, Whelan and Drew Talbot - have since left the Owls due to a combination of injury problems and contract disputes.
Another individual who played a huge part in the win was Northern Irish winger, Chris Brunt who now plies his trade with West Bromwich Albion. All of these players were the perfect foundations on which Wednesday's renaissance should have been built: all these players have now left.
The main grievance of many of the supporters is that this particular group of players were all under the age of 24 and they were all allowed to leave for, in many cases, a pittance.
Last season`s display in the Championship saw the Owls finish an impressive 9th with vital contributions from Brunt, Whelan and MacLean. Again an air of optimism swept around Hillsborough with supporters once again believing that Wednesday's glory days may be just around the corner. But a flood, some boardroom unrest and a summer of transfer activity later and two of the clubs most valuable assets had left; only Whelan remained.
With a contract close to expiring at the end of the season and no sign of Whelan signing a new one, supporters were starting to accept that yet another of their brightest prospects could be leaving the club.
With it becoming more and more obvious that Whelan wouldn't be putting pen to paper Wednesday decided to cash in on the combative Irishman rather than see him leave for nothing. Stoke City duly made a late transfer deadline swoop to make the former Owls no.6 a useful addition to their promotion-chasing squad.
In the end the fee of £500,000 paid by the Potters seemed quite generous considering Whelan`s contractual situation, but nothing compared to what Wednesday could have received if he had been under the security of a more long-term deal.
So by the end of January 2008 the key individuals and brightest talents from that promotion winning side of 2005 had departed S6 for pastures new. It was now becoming obvious that financial constraints were starting to hinder Wednesday's progression.
At the moment the Owls seem to be going through a transitional stage as they look to recover from the losses of the influential trio. But, despite the current doom and gloom there are many positives to draw. Academy graduates Tommy Spurr and Mark Beevers have both broken into the first team and are seen as huge prospects for the future. Refreshingly, both are also tied down to lengthy contracts.
The Owls academy is also building a string of impressive contacts abroad with affiliates in Argentina, Canada, Australia and Ireland to name a few. Such affiliations are designed as a cheap and effective way for the club to sign exciting young talent from these particular regions, a more than useful tool considering the distinct lack of finances. Another positive is the recent admission by Academy Manager, Sean McAuley who describes the clubs current crop of under-16s as some of the most promising he has seen. We can only hope that with the right guidance and education they too can follow the perfect examples set by Spurr and Beevers.
Alongside the two academy graduates the Owls also possess some quality first team members. Frank Simek, Richard Wood, Etienne Esajas, Jermaine Johnson, Francis Jeffers and Akpo Sodje are all valuable assets providing they can stay fit!
There has recently been talk of new investment with Chief Executive Kaven Walker believing a deal to be "very close". Such investment would go a long way towards lifting the current, negative atmosphere and provide a useful springboard for the Owls to progress. Such a new cash injection would also prove a welcome boost for Brian Laws who would surely have the opportunity to bolster the squad.
With the Kings of Cardiff long gone it's time for Wednesday to start looking to the future. With new investment supposedly just around the corner, an academy developing the stars of the future and an already decent squad in place, the future is most definitely bright and blue and white...