Sheffield Wednesday’s visit will be a very poignant one this season, considering they were the last-ever team to play at Griffin Park in front of fans.
The Owls visited us the weekend before football stopped, and were torn apart in a brilliant Brentford display as we won 5-0.
But how many of us lucky enough to be there that day would have possibly imagined that we would never again watch a game at our beloved home ground as we went home that afternoon?
That game was crucial in kickstarting our promotion challenge – and Wednesday’s match will again be a big one for the fortunes of both sides, with Brentford second top and the Owls second bottom of the table.
Wednesday began the season with a 12-point deduction for breaking EFL spending rules, later halved to six points on appeal.
And the season seems to have lurched from one crisis to another, with poor results on the pitch leading to them now being on their third manager of the campaign and a takeover bid being rejected off the pitch.
Garry Monk began the campaign in the hotseat but was sacked in early November with the side just having climbed off the bottom above Derby on goal difference.
Tony Pulis was appointed as Monk’s replacement, but he only lasted 10 games before being fired just after Christmas with the club still 23rd in the table.
He has been replaced on a caretaker basis by Neil Thompson, who has improved results but not managed to lift the Owls any higher in the table.
Thompson has led Wednesday to five wins and four draws in the Championship in his time in charge, including a notable 2-1 win at Bournemouth, although two of the defeats have come in their last two games – 1-0 at Stoke and the same score at home to Birmingham on Saturday.
Their only other away victories so far both came in the first half of the season – 2-0 at Cardiff and 1-0 at Birmingham.
They did at least enjoy a bit of success in the two cup competitions.
They beat Walsall (4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw) and Rochdale (2-0) in the Carabao Cup, before losing 2-0 at Fulham.
And in the FA Cup, they won 2-0 at Exeter before going down 3-0 at Everton.
This is Wednesday’s ninth 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
Neil Thompson is currently in temporary charge at Hillsborough.
Thompson joined Wednesday’s coaching staff in February 2011 and was first-team coach at the time of Tony Pulis’s departure. He has worked with both the first team and under-23 sides during his time at the club.
He has previously been in charge at York, Scarborough and Boston – each time as player-manager.
He played more than 600 games in his career as a defender – with more than two-thirds of them with Scarborough and Ipswich.
Thompson also represented Hull, Barnsley and Oldham, as well as the three teams he managed.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Wednesday are one of the four teams we have played in every season since arriving in the Championship in 2014 – Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham Forest are the others.
And our record against them isn’t bad, with five victories and two draws in 13 matches.
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, before we finally beat them as John Egan and Harlee Dean were on target in a 2-1 win at Hillsborough on a Tuesday night the following February, with a late Fernando Forestieri reply a mere consolation.
Normal service was restored in Wednesday’s favour early the following season as Wednesday come from behind to beat us 2-1 at Hillsborough in September.
Nico Yennaris had given us an early lead but Gary Hooper, on the stroke of half-time, and Ross Wallace, in the 70th minute gave the Owls a victory which took them into the play-off zone and dropped us into the bottom three.
We finally got our first home win in our Championship meetings in the final game of 2017, 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.
Each of the 2018/19 meetings resulted in a 2-0 home win.
We were victorious in the middle of August as a first-half penalty from Neal Maupay and second-half strike from Ollie Watkins wrapped up the victory.
A Steven Fletcher double – one in each half – secured Wednesday’s win in the return again in midweek.
Fletcher hit another brace against us in the first of of last season’s encounters – the first a penalty – as he cancelled out Bryan Mbeumo’s opener to give them a 2-1 victory in early December.
The home game, as mentioned earlier, will never be forgotten for so many reasons.
The last Griffin Park game with fans, 12,273 of us, a brilliant display, that Emiliano Marcondes goal – it all went right for the Bees in a 5-0 win.
The Bees were 3-0 up at half-time after Josh Dasilva, Marcondes with his unstoppable long-range shot, and Bryan Mbeumo all scored as we enjoyed 80% of the possession.
Dasilva, and substitute Tarique Fosu, with his first goal for the club, completed the rout in the second half to earn us our first win in six games and move us up to fourth in the table, where we would stay until June, and drop Wednesday down to 15th.
BBC Radio Sheffield’s reporter and commentator Adam Oxley, who also previewed Barnsley for us, looks at the Owls’ difficult season, tells us how ex-Bees Moses Odubajo and Kadeem Harris are doing at Hillsborough and recalls last season’s Griffin Park meeting.
Q – Wednesday seem to be going through an extraordinarily difficult season. How would you sum up what has been going on?
A – Life is never dull at Sheffield Wednesday. From the moment the Owls were hit with an initial 12-point deduction for breaking spending rules, it was destined to be a difficult season, but nobody could have predicted the twists and turns both on and off the field, with the club on its third manager of the campaign and the fanbase at odds with each other, the players and the chairman Dejphon Chansiri.
Garry Monk started the season by finally bringing his own coaching staff to the club but was sacked after just two months, having taken four points from two games after a run of defeats. Tony Pulis then arrived to a mixed reception, winning just one of 10 games before getting the boot just after Christmas, at odds with the chairman over the direction of the club. The team now feels in limbo with no defined period in which caretaker boss Neil Thompson will be in charge.
Many thought a new manager would be installed early in January to have the transfer window to make changes, but that didn’t happen. There was an initial upturn in results under Thompson – a popular figure who has been a coach at the club for a decade – but the team has lost three in four, and Thompson has now been in charge longer than Tony Pulis. And that’s barely scratching the surface on the story of the season!
Q – How much of a millstone round the neck was the points deduction and were there thoughts it would all be wiped out?
A – The club was confident its 12-point deduction would be overturned in full but on appeal it was reduced to six points. As such, it has felt less of a millstone, but even with an extra six more points, the Owls would only be three points outside the drop zone, rather than second bottom.
There is a wide acknowledgement by fans, players and management that the points deduction has made the season more difficult, but it’s not the key factor being debated as to why Wednesday are struggling this season.
Q – Tony Pulis, with his record of never being relegated, looked like a solid managerial choice, but why was his stay so short?
A – Tony Pulis arrived at the club and immediately said he would be honest in his appraisal of the players and what he thought needed to happen to turn the club’s fortunes around. As expected, the style of football under Pulis wasn’t great to watch, and only returned limited results. Pulis initially said some new players would be needed in January but as games went by, the scale of the rebuild appeared to grow in his eyes.
Days before the transfer window opened, Pulis was sacked, with chairman Dejphon Chansiri saying he made a mistake in hiring the Welshman who, according to Chansiri, tried to cause trouble and didn’t play the style of football he wanted. We may never know the whole story, but the relationship between manager and chairman broke down quickly and ended bitterly.
Q – Wednesday’s form has improved under Neil Thompson, so how confident are you that they will stay up?
A – While there was an initial bounce in results under Neil Thompson, the team has had a difficult couple of weeks since their impressive win at Bournemouth, losing to Millwall, Stoke and Birmingham, with their only victory in four coming against bottom-side Wycombe.
Personally, I still think Wednesday have enough to stay up with a good defensive record, but scoring goals is a real issue and performance levels need to improve.
Q – Ex-Bee Moses Odubajo was accused of smiling at an opposition goal this season. How has he done in his time at Hillsborough?
A – Moses Odubajo is currently out injured so won’t feature against the Bees. He’s had a mixed time at Hillsborough on the pitch, giving away a few penalties, but generally performing OK.
Moses has spoken really strongly and openly about abuse on social media, much to his credit, and he maintains the high-five incident at the City Ground, after Lewis Grabban scored against Wednesday, was taken out of context.
Q – And how is another ex-Bee, Kadeem Harris, doing?
A – Kadeem Harris has been about as consistent a performer as anyone at Hillsborough, playing regularly since arriving from Cardiff in 2019. Along with skipper Barry Bannan – who has just signed a new two-year contract – Harris is the player who offers the most attacking promise for the Owls, operating as a winger come-wing back and really driving at defenders.
As with all Wednesday players, particularly this season, there’s not been enough end product from Harris, and he’s yet to score this campaign.
Q – The Owls’ game at Brentford last season turned out to be the final one at Griffin Park with fans. What do you remember of it?
A – I didn’t cover the 5-0 defeat the last time the Owls visited Brentford, but I remember the reaction from Wednesday fans being strong and who knows, if the first lockdown hadn’t have come when it did, Garry Monk would have been under serious pressure after just one win in 10 league games. It was certainly not the result you wanted to dwell over for three months before the next match!
Q – Which Wednesday players should Bees fans watch out for?
A – I would have suggested midfielder Liam Shaw as a player to watch out for but given he was sent off against Birmingham at the weekend, he won’t feature. Shaw has been the big story over recent weeks, a 19-year-old academy player in his breakthrough season who has signed pre-contract terms with Scottish giants Celtic for the summer when his present Owls deal expires. Many fans feel let down that the boyhood Owl has chosen to leave, and many fans are also disappointed with the club for not securing his future more quickly. The reality is that it seems an opportunity too good to turn down, especially with Wednesday’s place in the Championship far from secure.
As for players who will play, Chey Dunkley has impressed in central defence now he’s finally playing and over his injury troubles, having arrived from Wigan in the summer.
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Wednesday line-up and formation please?
A – The Owls have mainly been playing 3-5-2 recently, but did change to four at the back against Birmingham at the weekend. Given the disappointing result and performance against the Blues, it’s difficult to predict who will face the Bees but here’s a potential 3-5-2 line-up.
CB: Lees, Dunkley, Urhoghide
CM: Hutchinson, Pelupessy, Bannan
FWD: Paterson, Rhodes
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played at the Brentford Community Stadium at 7pm on Wednesday, behind closed doors.
Season ticket holders who have frozen their tickets have free access to watch the match on iFollow, and others can buy a match pass for £10.