Sheffield Wednesday Relegation: A Fall From Grace

Sheffield Wednesday Relegation
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On May 8, 2021, Sheffield Wednesday suffered relegation to League One for only the fourth time in their history, after a truly disastrous season.

A turbulent campaign, marred by issues on and off the pitch, 2020/21 will be one Wednesday fans wish they could purge from their memories. It’s been a tale of points deductions, disconnection with the fans, and three unsuccessful head coaches.

It’s sad to see how far Sheffield Wednesday have fallen since reaching the Championship playoff final in 2016.

No doubt the Wednesday massive will be looking for someone to blame. A club of their stature shouldn’t be languishing in the third tier, yet this is now where they reside. But who is to blame?

Is it the unpopular owner, Dejphon Chansiri? He certainly thinks highly of himself, with his name emblazoned across the North Stand.

Could it be the lacklustre playing staff? There’s plenty of deadwood at Wednesday, but with their pay being repeatedly delayed over this season, it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for them. Not to mention the added pressure of starting on negative points.

Perhaps it’s the management staff? Sheffield Wednesday have had three different permanent head coaches this year: Garry Monk, Tony Pulis and Darren Moore. Neil Thompson also took the reins as caretaker for a few matches.

In reality, it may be all of these things coming together to create the perfect storm.

What Happened to Sheffield Wednesday?

An Uphill Battle From Relegation for Sheffield Wednesday

Wednesday were already in trouble of relegation when the season began, given their points deduction. However, they were able to pull a 2-0 win out of the bag away at Cardiff on the opening day. Sadly, these celebrations were particularly finite.

October saw the Owls suffer a slew of humiliating defeats. Losses to Brentford and Luton were bad enough, but then they were given a 3-0 pasting by local rivals Rotherham. This was Wednesday’s first loss to the Millers since 2016 and it would only get worse from here.

Just two days later, Wednesday were beaten again, this time by the struggling Wycombe Wanderers. It was Wycombe’s first win of the season, winning 1-0, and it was also their first clean sheet.

An impressive win against Bournemouth was not enough for Garry Monk, as he was sacked on November 9. Before Wednesday’s next game, they had already appointed a new head coach – Tony Pulis. While some Wednesday fans were pessimistic about his dull brand of football, others were hopeful he could keep them up.

The Welshman began his time at Wednesday slowly and unspectacularly. Of his first five games, Wednesday only lost one, but only won one, too. It did not take long for things to unravel.

Pulis Departs Wednesday, With Relegation Looming

Through December, Wednesday went onto lose four games in a row, including against nearby club Barnsley. After just 45 days, Pulis was shockingly sacked, having only taken charge for ten games.

It was quickly apparent that Pulis’ sacking was not just due to Wednesday’s performances on the pitch. It seemed he was dissatisfied with how the club was run, which apparently did not sit well with Chansiri.

When a manager and an owner butt heads, there will only ever be one winner. Wednesday’s turbulent season had just become even more precarious.

With Neil Thompson put in place as interim manager, the search for a new head coach began once again. Given the circumstances, Thompson did an admirable job, but the board made it clear that his position wasn’t permanent.

Of the 13 games Thompson took charge of, Wednesday won six and lost seven. In terms of win percentage, he did better than Pulis and Monk did. Pulis left Wednesday having won a paltry two games.

Wednesday Appoint Darren Moore

On March 1, 2021, Wednesday made their choice. They appointed Darren Moore from Doncaster Rovers, who he had left in a strong position in League One. Moore had never had a full season in English football at this point, with the previous campaign being cut short due to COVID-19. It was a step up for him in terms of difficulty, but could he handle the added pressure?

Moore’s first game at Wednesday could barely have been worse. They played Rotherham at home and were looking for revenge. The score was 1-1, and Rotherham were down to ten men. A late Wednesday corner was taken poorly and cleared to Rotherham’s Freddie Ladapo, who cut inside and scored. Wednesday came away with nothing.

It would take Moore five games to record his first victory, defeating Barnsley at Oakwell 2-1. The celebrations were short-lived, as Wednesday still had a mountain to climb.

Out of nowhere, Wednesday recorded a massive 5-0 win against Cardiff, giving the Owls something to cling onto. This hope was subsequently extinguished four days later, as they were thumped 4-1 by QPR.

This was the story of Wednesday’s season. They had ability, but the defeatist attitude that hung around the club left the players unenthused. Morale was clearly at an all-time low.

The Owls’ spirited performance against Cardiff was nothing more than a flash in the pan. A 1-0 win against Blackburn Rovers wasn’t enough to raise them out of the doldrums. On the final day of the campaign, Wednesday faced relegation rivals Derby County with everything to play for.

Relegation Confirmed for Wednesday

To avoid relegation, Wednesday had to beat Derby and also hope Rotherham failed to win their game against Cardiff. It wasn’t completely in their hands, but the chance was there.

In a thrilling encounter, Wednesday led first, before being pegged back to 2-1 after two swift goals from Derby. An defensive error from the Rams allowed Callum Paterson to tap in an equaliser.

Wednesday then scored a dubious goal through Julian Borner, after another bout of defensive frailty from their opponents. Rotherham would go onto draw their game with Cardiff – if Wednesday could have held this lead, they would have stayed up.

However, they did not. Chey Dunkley gave away a penalty, which was buried by Martyn Waghorn. Despite a late onslaught of efforts, Sheffield Wednesday could not find a response, and were condemned to relegation to League One.

Wednesday’s Next Steps

So where do Sheffield Wednesday go from here, following their relegation? Chansiri has publicly backed Darren Moore, but a turnover of playing staff can be expected.

In a position such as Wednesday’s, the emphasis must be placed on getting their loyal fanbase back on board. Giving some of the academy players a chance next season would be a positive start.

Renewing Bannan’s contract back in February was a good move. He’s very popular with Wednesday fans and was their best player last season. He may be 31, but he’s still got a lot to offer, especially at League One level.

It would also pay dividends to hold onto key players like Josh Windass and Dominic Iorfa. Both have been rare beacons of light for the Owls and keeping them would be a real statement of intent.

Wednesday’s squad needs a clear out, but it’s important not to let their good players join the exodus. The worst thing Wednesday can do right now is underestimate League One.

This is unlikely to happen. Darren Moore knows League One quite well and the challenges one faces within it. Wednesday have the resources and a good manager for the division. If all goes well, they should return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

However, as we know, it’s never straightforward with Sheffield Wednesday.

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