Sheffield Wednesday have had a real up and down season and look to have too much to do to force their way into the play-offs.
With 10 games to go, they have to play five of the top six – including the Bees and sixth-placed Preston, who they trail by eight points.
Things looked very different the weekend before Christmas, when the Owls beat Bristol City 1-0 to climb to third in the table.
However, they picked up only nine points from their next 13 matches and that has really put paid to their promotion hopes.
They made a decent start to the season under caretaker manager Lee Bullen, who stepped in when Steve Bruce quit over the summer before becoming Newcastle boss.
Garry Monk replaced Bullen in early September to take charge of his fourth Championship club in four years.
As well as a mixed league season, Wednesday have done reasonably well in the cups.
They reached the third round of the Carabao Cup, with Bury’s demise giving them a bye in round one, before they won 1-0 at Rotherham to earn a tie with Everton, which they lost 2-0.
Then on Wednesday, they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fifth round – 1-0 by Manchester City – after earning a shock 1-0 win at Brighton and winning 2-1 at QPR in the earlier rounds.
This is Wednesday’s eighth successive season in the Championship. They reached the play-offs in 2015-16 and 2016-17, but apart from that have finished 12th or below in every other campaign.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Garry Monk was appointed as Wednesday manager in September, replacing Steve Bruce in the job.
Monk started his managerial career by taking charge of his former club Swansea and went on to become the sixth full-time coach appointed by Leeds owner Massimo Cellino.
He has also managed Middlesbrough and Birmingham.
Monk spent most of his playing career with Swansea – making more than 250 appearances in an 11-year spell, mostly as captain, and leading them from League One to the Premier League, picking up winners’ medals in the League Cup and LDV Vans Trophy along the way.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Wednesday are one of the five teams we have played in every season since arriving in the Championship – Birmingham, Derby, Leeds and Nottingham Forest are the others.
And our record against them isn’t great, with only three victories and two draws in 11 matches.
Two came in 2017 – John Egan and Harlee Dean on target in a 2-1 win at Hillsborough in February, with a late Fernando Forestieri reply a mere consolation.
The other one that year was at Griffin Park in December – as goals in either half from Lasse Vibe and Florian Jozefzoon gave us a 2-0 win – our third successive victory – against the managerless Owls.
We also beat them at home last season in the middle of August as a first-half penalty from Neal Maupay and second-half strike from Ollie Watkins wrapped up a 2-0 victory.
We failed to score against them in 2014/15 – drawing 0-0 at Griffin Park and losing the return 1-0 – while the following season Wednesday did the double, following a 2-1 victory in TW8 with a 4-0 hammering at Hillsborough.
The first game in 2016/17, was a 1-1 draw in west London, while the other 2017/18 match saw Wednesday come from behind to beat us 2-1 at Hillsborough in September.
A Steven Fletcher double – one in each half – wrapped up a 2-0 midweek win for Wednesday at Hillsborough last season, and Fletcher hit another brace against us in the first of this season’s games – the first a penalty – as he cancelled out Bryan Mbeumo’s opener to give them a 2-1 victory in December.
BBC Radio Sheffield commentator Rob Staton tells us what has made Wednesday’s season fall apart since Christmas and why it didn’t work out for Moses Odubajo at Hillsborough, while he recalls previous Griffin Park encounters.
Q – What has gone wrong for Wednesday in the past couple of months – was it all down to Steven Fletcher’s absence?
A – It definitely played a big part. Fletcher has been outstanding for Wednesday this season. He’s a leader in the dressing room and a consistent source of goals. Apart from that, there are some other things going on. The club has been charged by the EFL for breaking profit & sustainability rules. We’re waiting to see if this will result in a points deduction. And several players have been removed from first team consideration by manager Garry Monk and will leave the club in the summer.
Q – How would you assess the Owls’ season overall – and what sort of job is Garry Monk doing?
A – It’s been a difficult season. Steve Bruce left for Newcastle before a ball was kicked and the squad has needed a freshen-up for some time. Then there’s the potential points deduction and if that happens, they’ll be fighting to beat the drop. There’s a lot to sort out. It was never going to be a job you could come in mid-season and sort everything out.
Q – What do you think of Wednesday’s chances of claiming a play-off place?
A – They were third before Christmas but have lost eight in 13 since. It’s not happening, with or without a points deduction.
Q – A lot of Bees fans were surprised to see Moses Odubajo released after only half a season – what happened?
A – It just never worked out. He performed poorly and it was probably best for both parties.
Q – How is former Bees loan player Kadeem Harris doing?
A – He’s doing quite well. He’s provided some much-needed pace. They’ve been lacking that for years. It’s very difficult at the moment though for anyone to flourish. The team just hasn’t been in any form.
Q – It’s Wednesday’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park – what memories do you have of previous meetings in west London?
A – The obvious one that sticks out is the play-off semi-final. There’s a lot of affection for that Wednesday team and the manager at the time, Paul Sturrock. It’s been a really difficult 20 years for Sheffield Wednesday but that play-off season was one of the few bright moments. The final in Cardiff was a real occasion and I think at the time fans felt Wednesday were on their way back. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and they ended up back in League One a few years later. Nevertheless, that win against Brentford, with goals from Lee Peacock and Chris Brunt, will live long in the memory of Owls fans.
Q – What style of football should Brentford fans expect to see from the Owls?
A – I think they’ll will try to frustrate and contain. If Fletcher is fit enough to start they will try to play off him. Barry Bannan will try to dictate things from midfield. But they’ve been suspect at the back for a while.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – Fletcher without a doubt and Bannan too. Fernando Forestieri is also a match-winner on his day.
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Wednesday starting line-up and formation?
A – I think they’ll stick with what they did against Manchester City and go with a 4-5-1 with Lees replacing Borner who went off at half time in that game and Hunt in for Lee who also had to go off. If Fletcher can start they might go with a two up top instead.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s game.
2-0 Bees. The Bees get back to winning ways at home after a tricky few weeks. Nervous home atmosphere at the start with the first goal easing us in. Sheff to cause us a few problems but we come away unscathed. Edward the Headward
3-1 Bees. The Bees are back. Sheff Weds sloppy at the back & BMW take full advantage. However, we concede a headed goal angled towards the far post. Matt Allard
3-0 Bees. A much better performance against Cardiff than other games recently gives the Bees the confidence to take the game to Wednesday. A long overdue clean sheet sees the Bees come out comfortable winners. Sav
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Wednesday fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be). As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields.
The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles. There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave) – right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889. There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you.
There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around. Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look out for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.