Ahead of Saturday's meeting with Sheffield Wednesday, we're speaking to another local journalist who has been covering their team week in, week out, in order to get the inside scoop on our latest opponents, The Owls.
YorkshireLive's Dom Howson gives us the lowdown on the latest from Hillsborough as we prepare to welcome Darren Moore's side to the Madejski this weekend.
Dom, thanks for speaking to us. How would you sum up Wednesday’s season so far?
Chaotic, it’s been a rollercoaster, they've had four different managers and they’ve had the points deduction too hanging over them, so they’ve been playing catch up with that from the very start and it’s been an uphill struggle. It’s been very eventful to cover, there’s never a dull moment at Sheffield Wednesday.
They picked up under the caretaker Neil Thompson when he took over during the Christmas period, they climbed out of the relegation zone and you’re thinking that perhaps they’ve turned a corner, but then they’ve gone through a sticky patch again. They’ve got themselves a new manager, they’re hoping they’ll get that new manager bounce and that they’ve left themselves enough time to get out of trouble.
How has this compared to your expectations at the start of the season?
Everyone knew it was going to be an uphill task for Wednesday starting on -12 points, that then got reduced to -6 a few months in, but everyone knew this was going to be a relegation battle and it was all about staying in the Championship this season, they never shied away from that and that’s been the end goal right from the off.
They’ve struggled to score goals all season and that’s been a big issue for them, their away form has left a lot to be desired and they’ve been very inconsistent all the way through. Even if they hadn’t had the points deduction, they would still be in and around that bottom six, it’s a big period and they have to string a few results together to give themselves a fighting chance of staying in the division.
Darren Moore is the newly appointed man in the dugout at Hillsborough - how has his arrival been welcomed?
It’s been a very popular appointment, he’s talked a lot in the first few days he’s been in charge, about unity and everyone sticking together which is important, I think he’s someone who’s come in with a very good track record. He’s done a good job in his two management positions he’s already held in his fledgling managerial career and I think that overall people were delighted and pleasantly surprised that Wednesday have bought a manager in who was already in work as opposed to looking abroad or to someone who was out of work.
I think that caught a lot of people by surprise that they’ve brought in a young, highly-rated, respected figure in the game and I think it’s certainly lifted the mood around the club.
Watching from afar, what have you made of Reading this season?
They’re probably the surprise package, the manager’s done an excellent job and I’ve seen them quite a lot of them this season, they’ve played some really good football and they’ve got some very talented players at the top of the pitch in Ejaria, Joao and a few others.
I still don’t think that at the start of the season many people had them down as top six contenders so I think they’ve maybe punched a little above their weight, but it just shows what you can do with good recruitment and a manager who has come in and galvanised the place. They look right now like they’ve got a very good chance of finishing in the play-offs in what would be a very good season for them.
I’m not totally surprised in the sense that you always knew he had the talent, the ability was never in question and he showed glimpses of what he was capable of at Wednesday but I think i'm maybe a tad surprised by the consistency he’s shown this season.
He’s got all the attributes to be a Premier League player and we saw that at Wednesday, a lot of the time he made a big impact from the bench and he struggled really to nail down a first-team spot and maybe fell out of favour under certain managers.
He left Wednesday at a time where he needed a new challenge and needed to feel like he was the main man and he’s certainly found that at Reading where maybe he took a bit of time to find his feet and settle in, he had some injury problems too but they’re well and truly behind him.
On the other hand, which Wednesday players do you think Royals fans should be keeping an eye out for as your biggest assets?
Barry Bannan I think is the one that most opposition teams look at, and if you can stop Bannan in midfield, I think you’ll go a long way to shutting down Wednesday’s creativity and flair in that department. I think Bannan has proven over the years that he’s a top player at this level and that he can dictate play from midfield so I’m sure that Reading will look to make special plans for him.
Josh Windass too has come into a little bit of form, scoring two goals at Luton which was arguably his best performance of the season. He’s an energetic, hard-working player and he has six goals in a team that doesn’t create bags of chances, so he’s done reasonably well in a number of different roles.
With 11 games to go, how are you feeling about Wednesday’s bid to beat the drop?
It’s on a knife edge, I think that this period before the final international break of the season is going to be defining. There’s four matches left to play and if they don’t pick up a healthy points return before the end of March they’re going to leave themselves with a lot to do and potentially be cut adrift. They’ve got Reading, Norwich, Huddersfield and Barnsley which is a really tough run-in, but if they’re going to have any chance, the next four matches will be pivotal.
Dom Howson is a Football Writer for YorkshireLive.