‘We must believe,’ says Owls manager Luhukay as pressure builds from fans
DEFIANT Jos Luhukay insists he will not quit Sheffield Wednesday.
The Owls have the worst defence in the Championship – 36 goals conceded, after a horror 4-2 loss at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday – and sit five points off the relegation zone.
The 3,500 travelling Owls supporters chanted ‘We want Jos out’ throughout the second half at Ewood Park, but Dutch manager Luhukay – with just one to his name in the last eight games – insists he will not walk away.
“I heard it (the chanting), yes, but what can I do with that? I’m also frustrated and irritated, it’s not what we like,” he said.
“The expectations in this club are high. We are now not living in the past, and fans may be live in the past from the success, but last season it was also a direction where it was not good enough.
“That’s why I came in January and now we sit in the same situation so we must fight against that, and we must believe that we can take us to a better period.
“Now we are in the worst period, I know that. But in my character, it is not that I will give up, but only solve why we didn’t get a good result, or why the fans aren’t happy with this.
“But I’m also not happy with this, that’s why I can understand it. It’s not nice, but in football there will be periods where you have better results and success. We must have patience for that.”
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY owner Dejphon Chansiri was not at Ewood Park to watch the Owls’ latest horror show.
That is probably a relief for Jos Luhukay, who was bombarded with chants from Wednesday’s 3,500 travelling fans calling for the manager’s head after a 4-2 defeat.
For 11 months ago, Chansiri showed little festive spirit in parting with former coach Carlos Carvalhal on Christmas Eve.
The pressure is now firmly on Luhukay to halt a slump which has seen Wednesday plummet down the Championship table.
Shoddy defending allowed Blackburn duo Danny Graham and Bradley Dack to share four goals between them, and undermine Wednesday’s attempts to get anything out of Ewood Park, despite goals from Lucas Joao and Barry Bannan. The worrying part for Wednesday is they appear to have shown little improvement in the 11 months since Carvalhal departed.
When the Portuguese chief was sacked on Christmas Eve last year the Owls were 15th in the Championship, with 27 points from 23 games.
Heading into December once again this term, under Luhukay, the Owls are 16th in the table, four points worse off, after 20 games.
In the Dutchman’s defence, he has been hindered by a transfer embargo for much of his tenure – having joined in January – and has been forced to blood a number of Academy youngsters.
But neither results nor performances have improved this season, four of their six wins – Reading, Bolton, Ipswich and Millwall – coming against the teams who occupy the bottom quartet in the Championship.
It means the Owls head into Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby with neighbours Rotherham United – only three points below them in the table – knowing they must improve on another poor display at Ewood Park.
Luhukay said: “I understand the fans’ frustration. I’m also angry, frustrated and irritated.
“We lose together. I have the responsibility and I walk not away from that.
“I believe in this team and I hope we soon have a better period.
“When I don’t have the confidence (that I can turn it around), I will go. But I think I reach the players and, when I have feeling that is not true, then I am not the right person for this position.
“I still believe that the team stays behind me and that together the players follow our way. It gives me the motivation and inspiration every day.
“We now have one week to get together and work as a team before a big derby game against Rotherham next Saturday.”
Wednesday were toothless in the opening 45 minutes, failing to get a shot on target.
They could have been 3-0 down inside the opening 10 minutes.
Dack got the ball in the back of the net but the referee had blown for a foul in the build-up before Craig Conway’s cross picked out the unmarked Harrison Reed at the far post, but he struck the post.
So when goalkeeper Cameron Dawson could only parry a shot from the impressive Dack, Graham was lurking to fire home the rebound.
Starting with a 4-2-3-1 formation – with youngster Jordan Thorniley struggling after being switched from his regular centreback spot to left-back – the Owls were continually exposed at the back.
Neither wide men Marco Matias or Lucas Joao – both attackminded players – provided adequate cover down the flanks, and even from the early exchanges, you feared how many goals the Owls would concede.
Dack blazed over the crossbar after arriving late in the area, and the only consolation Wednesday could take at the half-time whistle was that they only trailed 1-0 against a Blackburn side who had won just once in six before Saturday.
Something had to change, and Luhukay replaced Steven Fletcher and Matias with Fernando Forestieri and Atdhe Nuhiu at the start of the second half.
Dawson kept out Derrick Williams’s close-range header, before Adam Reach finally managed Wednesday’s first attempt on target in the 50th minute, goalkeeper David Raya palming wide at his near post.
Rovers netted a deserved second goal moments later, Blackburn slicing through the rearguard before Graham turned provider to slide in Dack, who slammed the ball beyond Dawson.
That was the breaking point for Wednesday fans, with chants of ‘We want Jos out’ from the Darwen End the backdrop to a second half in which the visitors showed willing, but their efforts being undone by their shortcomings in defence.
Twice the Owls cut the deficit to a solitary goal, but each time they were left exposed in midfield and Blackburn punished them.
Lucas Joao drilled home a 25-yard effort to make it 2-1, only for Graham to prod home the rebound after Dack’s effort smacked the post.
Midfielder Barry Bannan single-handedly pulled the Owls back to 3-2, as he bulldozed through Rovers’ defence. His shot hit the post, rolled across goal and between them Raya and Bannan bundled the ball into the net.
Officials awarded an own goal to the Blackburn goalkeeper, but Scottish international Bannan told The Yorkshire Post after the game he got the final touch and was claiming the goal.
But once again Blackburn went up the field to score. This time on-loan Michael Hector allowed Dack to drift beyond him, and the midfielder crossed for the unmarked Graham to complete his hat-trick of tap-ins.
To cap a miserable afternoon for Wednesday, Forestieri – whose season has been plagued by injury – limped off in stoppage-time, and faces a scan later this week on his hamstring which could see him sidelined once again.
INJURY SETBACK: Sheffield Wednesday attacker Fernando Forestieri faces a scan on his hamstring this week after limping off near the end of the Owls’ crushing 4-2 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.