Sheffield Wednesday 2019-20 Season Review with Steve Walmsley, Mark Younger and Connor Thorpe

The Championship season is provisionally set to resume on 20th June, so Gabriel Sutton spoke to three Wednesdayites. Mark Younger (@mark42swfc), Connor Thorpe (@CThorpeFootball) and Steve Walmsley (@SheffWedWOTMT) from the excellent War Of The Monster Truck discuss the 2019-20 campaign for the Owls and the future that lies ahead.

Gab: It’s been bleak times for Sheffield Wednesday over the last three years and really, it all seems to stem from the ownership situation. There are clearly lots of things that chairman Dejphon Chansiri has got fundamentally wrong but is one of them an overreliance on an independent agent in Amadou Paixao?

Steve: Some good recruitment took place in Summer 2015 and the 15/16 season was very enjoyable, we over-achieved in getting to the play-off final in 2016 but after that we spent too much money on older, well-paid players who didn’t perform or were injury prone. In my view there has been too much focus on trying to get to the PL as fast as possible; building the infrastructure of the club has been neglected. The sense is that the owner and Paixao have got us to where we are now. The Championship is a financial nightmare, but after we missed out in the play-offs in 2017 we needed to re-set the model to something more sustainable and we didn’t. Steve Bruce walking out didn’t help at all – clearly a pull factor from the Newcastle but how much did push factors play a part?

Connor: My gut instinct is yes from the outside looking in, but we’re not exactly the most transparent club so it’s difficult to know who decides what behind the scenes. From what I’ve heard about Paixao, he doesn’t seem to have the club’s best interests at heart. There’s no doubt that we haven’t had a well-thought out recruitment strategy since 2015 really, and I put that down to Chansiri not surrounding himself with people who know how to run a football club. It’s been a total shambles. We’ve gambled money we weren’t allowed to spend on players who have flopped with no resale value, which is vital when you’re governed by FFP/profit and sustainability.

Mark: Paixao is a hugely controversial figure for us. Chansiri claims he has no involvement whatsoever in the day to day running of the club and has no authority, he’s merely an ‘Advisor’ who recommends players, but some fans aren’t so sure. He’s been pictured in the Team hotel the night before an away game, is that normal procedure for someone who has that role at a Football Club?

According to the chairman he’s recommended players such as Fernando Forestieri, Barry Bannan, Lucas Joao & Dominic Iorfa, which if that is the case then that’s a job well done! But I would have to ask the question (that since Chansiri took over Wednesday in January 2015) why players such as Filipe Melo (6 apps) Sergiu Bus (9 apps) Darryl Lachman (0 apps,) Rhoys Wiggins (9 apps) , Urby Emanuelson (1 app) were signed? They were clearly never fancied by the manager at the time, in this case Stuart Gray & Carlos Carvalhal.

It seems to me they were probably represented by Amadeu Paixao in some capacity. If they were, why were they brought in if they weren’t going to play? Who benefits from this?

The club clearly don’t, it’s a waste of finances & has the potential to disrupt a dressing room if players are coming in who aren’t up to the standard of the 1st team. As I think recruitment has been our biggest downfall in the Chansiri era, I have big reservations about why unknown & mostly foreign imports have come in under Chansiri to just pick up a wage?

There are other accusations that have been aimed at Paixao but I think they are for other people to answer, but for me there’s still a lot of unanswered questions around his involvement with Sheffield Wednesday.

Your form since Garry Monk took charge on 6th September reads 10 wins, nine draws and 12 defeats, with nine of the defeats coming in 14 post-Christmas league encounters. How much responsibility should he take for the alarming drop in form?

Steve: In Summer 2019 we knew we had a mid-table squad so achieving anything higher was not expected. He was brought in late in the day and had no pre-season, he had to work with a staff group and players he didn’t pick but he did well up to Xmas.

Since then the players have switched off, hence the results since then. Some fans blame him for side-lining West wood and Hutchinson and think this has been the cause. Personally, I suspect there is an attitude and mentality problem in the squad which he has identified but hasn’t been able to sort out.

He clearly can’t be absolved of all blame but think he deserves to have the Summer window, and a pre-season, and then be judged.

Connor: I usually say it’s a shared responsibility and that’s absolutely the case here. Chansiri (for reasons that I mentioned), Monk and the players are all partially to blame.

Monk has a very difficult job, because he took over a squad that is full of players who’ve stagnated in their career. Clubs need a healthy stream of players coming in and out to keep things fresh, and a lot of players need fresh challenges in their career to stay motivated.

At Wednesday we’ve got players who’ve been with the club for too long and plenty of them need to be moved on. So that’s a really tough situation for Monk, and he’s not had a summer transfer market to bring in his own players. We shouldn’t forget that.

However, a huge part of management is about getting the best out of the players you have at your disposal. Has he done that?

Absolutely not in this calendar year, and the downturn in form since we reached third in December is baffling. Tactically, I don’t know what’s gone wrong because we were playing well and there were no signs of this happening in my opinion.

Another worry is that this isn’t the first time that’s happened to Monk in his career: you saw what happened when his Leeds team inexplicably dropped out of the play-offs in 2017. So has he got the man-management skills to lift a team out of a rut?

As fans we don’t know for sure, but people can understandably come to those conclusions.

But you’ve absolutely got to question the mental strength of the squad as well. The last thing we need is another new manager, but can you really put your faith in Monk to build a squad for next season?

Funnily enough, I was going to wait a couple of games more to see if he could turn it around before calling for his head!

Mark: I think the main reason our form has dipped so much since Christmas is because Steven Fletcher picked up a long-term injury.

He was integral to how we played. He brings out the best in Barry Bannan, they are good mates on/off the pitch and their link up play at times is some of the best in the Championship.

He also scored 12 goals before his injury, our 2nd top scorer at that point was Jordan Rhodes with 3. (When he very uncharacteristically  scored a first half hat-trick away at Nottingham Forest.)

So, for us to lose them goals from our team when we were already punching above our weight to be 3rd on Christmas Day was always going to hit us hard. Should Monk take responsibility? He should take some as he’s the manager.

The style of play is boring, our home form is terrible, we’ve scored 16 goals at home which is the lowest in the division. When you are putting in these performances and not scoring in front of your own fans it doesn’t last long until the pressure mounts, normally it’s the manager who will take the brunt of it.

But it goes deeper than that, other than the Fletcher injury it’s clear we have players who have simply been here too long., they need to move on for the good of their career as much as we need them off the wage bill.

We are in desperate need of a ‘reset’ so we can simply try to freshen things up. Is Monk the man to take us forward and to build a team? I am not convinced, but I do think he’ll be given a chance in the summer to do this.

One thing I’ll say in Monk’s defence is he’s not only inherited an entire playing squad but he’s also inherited a backroom staff.

James Beattie will probably join up with Monk soon but there’s politics behind why that hasn’t happened yet. Apart from Ryan Needs who is Head of tactical analysis, Monk hasn’t been able to bring in any of his own staff in.

If Chansiri allows him to build a new squad this summer, he needs to allow him to bring in his own backroom staff, all though to be fair to Monk he’s never used this an excuse.

The days of Keiren Westwood being a top Championship goalkeeper are long gone – and there are suggestions that he can at times be difficult to manage. Should Cameron Dawson be your number one next season?

Steve: This splits the fanbase down the middle. Personally, yes, I think Dawson should be number one but I recognise he has improvements to make. Westwood has been a great keeper for the club but he is the past and not the future.

Connor: In an ideal world, we’d be bringing in a better number one that would help us aim towards the top six.

Dawson’s form fluctuates too much for him to be fully relied upon, and this calendar year he’s been awful. But it’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to bring many players this summer, and I think we need new faces more in other positions.

If we do finish the season, I’d like to see Joe Wildsmith given a chance. Westwood was in poor form, and Monk took him out of the team. The same should apply to Dawson.

Wildsmith hasn’t played for us in the league for a while due to injury, but he was brilliant against Man City in the FA Cup. So if we were to start a new season tomorrow, I’d be giving Wildsmith a chance to earn that number one shirt.

Mark: There is no doubt that Westwood has been one of the best free signings the club has ever made. He made the PFA Championship Team of the Year in his debut season (14-15) and was a huge part of the team which finished 6th & 4th in 15/16 & 16/17 seasons, including a club record 17 clean sheets back in 16/17.

However, injury problems and a loss of form in the 2017/18 season meant there was a chance for our 2 young understudy keepers Joe Wildsmith & Cameron Dawson to finally stake a claim to be number 1.

When Jos Luhukay arrived as manager in January of that season Westwood was still injured so he went with Wildsmith in goal, Dawson took over towards the end as Luhukay wanted to see them both in action. When the first game of the season arrived the following season Westwood was back fit, but he picked Dawson as number 1 and Wildsmith was on the bench.

Westwood never played competitively under Luhukay. The official reason why is unclear. Fans just thought he wanted to go with youth, which made sense as Luhukay gave a lot of youngsters their debut.

As soon as Luhukay was sacked December 2018 Westwood was re-installed as number 1 by Caretaker Manager Lee Bullen and he ended up signing a new contract for 2 more season once Steve Bruce came in.

However, his form this season has dropped again and Monk made the call to drop Westwood for Dawson. Dawson then signed a new 4 & half year contact. But as the team’s form dipped, so did Dawson’s and fans have been calling for a now fit Westwood to be re-instated again, this looks incredibly unlikely.

Monk has said that Westwood isn’t available to train/play as often as he’d like, so he’s not part of our future. However, Westwood still has over a year left on his contract. In my opinion I don’t want Westwood recalled. His form this season hasn’t been good enough and going back to what I said before about players getting too comfortable, he’s one of them for me.

He’s been a great servant but he’s been frozen out by 2 managers now, that isn’t a coincidence and all though his form when he was recalled last season was good, it’s dipped since he was handed his new contract and also, he’s 35.

I’m just not sold on Dawson being number 1 now. Just before the season being suspended Joe Wildsmith played really well against Man City in the cup, I’d like to see him given a run in the team when football returns.

But I’d also be open to another keeper to come in with Championship experience to challenge Wildsmith and Dawson. Maybe on a 12-month contract and told there’s a place up for grabs if he’s willing to work at it.

Although Dawson is a great shot stopper, his kicking is poor and he’s been more prone to mistakes recently that are costing us goals. He’s got a long-term contract so he can be number eventually 1 but I’m not sure he’s dealt with it very well; he seems to play best when he’s stepping in when needed.

Moses Odubajo looks a shadow of the right-back that inspired Hull to promotion at your expense in 2015-16, he’s significantly declined in terms of pace – Liam Palmer has probably served his purpose as well. Do you see young Osaze Urhoghide starting more games when football returns?

Steve: Odubajo has been a disappointment. But he has recently talked about the impact that serious injury has had on his mental health and that can be seen is his lack of confidence.

Playing in a defence that hasn’t consistently played well all season and where leadership has been lacking since Glenn Loovens left can’t have helped. Liam Palmer gets some flack but he is a steady performer and did really well under Steve Bruce so I wouldn’t write him off yet.

Osaze looks like he has promise but he is really a central defender, and a raw one at that at this stage of his career. He needs to be nurtured and not thrown in at the deep end so given our finances I suspect it might be Moses and Liam vying for RB next season.

Connor: It’s so difficult to say, because a lot of this depends on what happens with the arbitration in July. For example, if we’re cleared of any wrongdoing with a few games left to play and we’re sat 14th in the league with no chance of relegation or promotion, then I think you’d see Monk throwing in some of the youngsters, and Urhoghide is right at the front of the queue in that regard.

But if we’re suddenly in a situation where we desperately need points to stay up, throwing a 19-year-old into the defence at the expense of an experienced player at this level would be a huge risk.

Urhoghide was fantastic in his first league start at Leeds, and by all accounts he had a great debut against Brighton in the FA Cup. But in the games he’s played after he’s struggled and made a couple of mistakes, including getting sent off against Reading.

So if we were suddenly dragged into a dogfight, the safe option would be to go with Palmer and re-evaluate in any sort of pre-season we get. That’s no criticism of Urhoghide, he’s done very well to progress his game to this level.

But putting your faith in any 19-year-old is a big risk, unless they’ve proven they can perform consistently.

I think whilst we don’t know what’s going to happen with the legal battle, we just have to prepare for the worst and try and finish comfortably above the bottom three.

Mark: Urhoghide has shown signs he could be a decent full back. He’s strong, quick & athletic so he has all the physical attributes. His 2 best games game at Brighton on his debut and then in his 2nd game at Leeds away, he was excellent in both.

But in the 2 home games he’s started he’s been subbed at half-time and red carded. So, all though he has all the raw attributes he’s also got a long way to go before he can be a consistent Championship right back.

Maybe a loan move may suit him for the first part of next season as we have 3 right backs on the books. I haven’t written off Odujabo just yet though… all though to put it mildly he has struggled for form, he’s admitted that and has been making the right noises.

He’s under contract so with a strong pre-season behind him who knows? Palmer is our 1st choice right back though for now, he’s a steady 6/7 out of 10 most games.

To my eyes, your best centre-back pairing comprises Julian Börner, who seems to have some intelligence to his game and Dominic Iorfa, who is very athletic. Has Tom Lees had his day?

Steve: Lees was at his best when Loovens was by his side to provide the leadership and direction he needs, he has not looked the same player since Loovens declined and then moved on.

He is not a natural leader so why he is captain I am not sure. I think his days as a regular starting centre back are gone and so should his days of captaincy be also.

Connor: Yes, Lees has undoubtedly had his worst season in a Wednesday shirt. It’s a huge shame because he’s been a great servant for the club. But we need to ditch the nostalgia and think about what’s the best for the club moving forward, and Borner and Iorfa has been the most impressive partnership.

Borner reads the game well and he was outstanding in the first half of the season, but he’s struggled with injury and a loss of form more recently. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back on the right track when we resume.

As for Iorfa, at times he looks like a £7 million + defender. He’s got the raw attributes: recovery pace, great strength, aerial ability and he can bring the ball out of defence. But when he has a bad game, he has an absolute stinker. He needs to add more consistency into his game and cut out the silly errors, but overall he’s been one of our best players this season.

Mark: I would agree with that. Lees, like Westwood has been a great servant for us (they both signed in the same pre-season) but has struggled for form recently. He has a year left on his contract but I’d put them in that category of players that have been here too long for me and would move him on if we can.

Borner started very well but he’s another one who’s form has nosedived quite considerably, but he’s not on his own there. Iorfa has been one of the very few positives of this season, since converting to centre back from right back he’s been excellent and I’d make him our prizes asset due to his age and potential.

He’s the one player I can see us making some good money out of if we ever decide to cash in. Regards of Iorfa staying or going, central defence is a position we definitely need to strengthen.

Morgan Fox seems to support play well from deep, while Kadeem Harris has a lot of pace. Is the left-sided partnership between those two one of the more positive aspects of your 2019-20 campaign?

Steve: Morgan Fox has been the subject of criticism from fans in the past but in the 19/20 season he has been very good and it is noticeable that an element of the post -Xmas defensive mess was linked to his absence through injury for a time.

Only Steven Fletcher would be ahead of him in player of the season vote. Harris started off very well – he was the type of winger we have needed for some time, but he lost his way half-way through the season and has struggled to recover. But yes, on their day they are a very effective partnership.

Connor: Fox has had a good season, and you’ve got to have huge respect for his resilience. When the team was read out in his first game of the season against Luton at home in August, he was booed by a section of our fans.

But he’s bounced back and has become one of our most consistent players this season. As for Harris, he’s blown hot and cold. Excellent when the season started, then he had a poor period before putting in some good performances in December. But like most of the team, his form has dramatically dropped since the turn of the year and he’s found himself in and out of the side.

Fox does offer a supporting an option on the left side, and he’s got a good delivery from deep areas. But at times I’ve actually been quite frustrated with them as a partnership but from a tactical point of view, so it’s not a criticism on either of them.

At times opposing teams have doubled up on Harris, and because Fox is more of a traditional full-back who relies on positional play rather than pace, he doesn’t overlap and force the winger to follow him.

Add to that the fact Harris is right-footed and cuts inside, so the teams with most balance would rely on a bit more width to come from an overlapping full-back. That’s nothing against Fox though, he’s a defensive minded full back who does his job well. We just sometimes leave ourselves lacking in an attacking sense.

Mark: Fox has been outstanding, not a bad comeback for a player booed by his own fans when his name was announced before our home game with Luton in August!

I’m delighted with his improvement as I never really understood why he got so much stick, he may not be the most naturally gifted full back but he’s always been solid and you know you will get 100% effort and professionalism from him each game.

You’re absolutely right about him and Harris, our left-hand side is something of a strong point for us and I don’t necessarily think that needs much tinkering with in the summer. All though Kadeem Harris is another where his form has dropped quite considerably after an explosive start.

He was left out of the side recently as well but he has all the attributes and I think he’s another one that I hope has been working very hard behind the scenes since football stopped to make improvements.

He just goes missing in games sometimes for me but I’d love him to go back to how he started the season when he picks up the ball deep and run at full backs as his pace is electrifying. He should be in double figures or certainly getting close to in goals/assists per season.

Three years ago, the partnership of Barry Bannan and Sam Hutchinson would have been one of the best in the Championship but nowadays, they seem to drop so far back they’re almost on Leppings Lane! Has that midfield area stagnated?

Steve: Massimo Luongo was supposed to make a real difference but he has  struggled with regular injuries that have significantly impacted on his season. Kieran Lee is not the player he used to be either so that has meant the midfield has lacked forward drive.

They have also seemed to be ‘locked in’ to the playing style Carvalhal developed in 16/17 of constantly re-cycling possession deep in our half. That leads us to being more direct which works if Fletcher is up-front but not when he isn’t. Our central midfield does need a major revamp!

Connor: Yes. I still think Bannan has a lot to offer, and in his best season in 2015-16 he played a lot higher up. In that role he was able to make key passes in dangerous areas, but now he seems to want to progress the ball from much deeper areas.

That can leave us lacking in the final third. Hutchinson seems to have had his day, and the same can be said for Kieran Lee who hasn’t been the same since he came back from that horrendous 16-month injury.

So we could do with some fresh blood in there desperately, I think we’d possibly be needing a “destroyer” and a playmaker who can keep possession and help us progress the ball forward.

Mark: Hutchinson like Westwood has been frozen out by Monk, he’ll be leaving the club in the summer. The reason why is clearer than Westwood though. Hutchinson as good as he is as a holding midfielder, he is only likely to play 25/30 games max a season, that’s not something Monk is on board with.

The signing of Luongo has been positive but he’s struggling to stay fit and have a real run in the team. It’s the area we need to strengthen the most, we only have Bannan, Luongo and 20-year old Hunt (yet to make his league debut) that are under contract for next season.

We need some fresh legs in there to provide competition for Luongo/Bannan. I’d say 2 central midfielders are needed at a minimum.

You’ve taken 19 points from the 10 games that Massimo Luongo has started – and the only defeat in that sequence was the 5-0 home loss to Blackburn, when the Aussie midfielder got sent off in the first half. Is it a shame you’ve not seen more of him this season?

Steve: Yes, totally, see above. His reputation at QPR was that of a defensive midfielder but on his game he is anything but. He is the only central midfielder we have who can now get into the box, in the right position at the right time to be a goal threat and his absence has been felt considerably.

Connor: I really like Luongo when he’s played, and it’s been really frustrating that he’s suffered a lot of injuries with us, but that’s just the curse of Sheffield Wednesday striking.

On a serious note, he offers flexibility in that midfield area. We’ve seen him play well as a holding midfielder because he’s solid in the tackle and he can make interceptions, but earlier in the season he looked good playing with the license to make runs beyond Fletcher in a 4-1-4-1.

He’s quite a well-rounded midfielder in my opinion, he’s not absolutely outstanding at anything in particular but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. You could play him box to box or holding in a 4-4-2, or in any midfield role in a 4-3-3.

Mark: Absolutely, from what I’ve seen of him I am really impressed, a proper box to box, ball winning midfielder. If he’s fit, he’s one of the first names on the team sheet, I’d like to see more of him & Bannan together as I think they complement each other well.

Luongo has many attributes I like in a central midfielder, he’s the perfect age as well for us as he has the experience but also got the potential to improve. As mentioned before though, he has really struggled to stay fit.

You don’t start 150 professional games for no reason, but as an outsider I always struggle to see what it is that Joey Pelupessy brings to the table – and Kieran Lee seems to be deeply affected by injuries, to the point where you’d want him to re-build his career in a lower division. It seems like you need a complete clear-out in this midfield area – so would you like to see Alex Hunt or Fraser Preston given a go when football returns?

Steve: Football in Holland is not the Championship and Joey never seems to have got to grips with that consistently, I have seen him look the part on occasions but he doesn’t do it often enough.

Kieran Lee has been a wonderful player for us, probably as influential as Bannan, but sadly injuries have taken their toll. Alex Hunt has got real potential and I suspect he will feature more next season, if circumstances allowed a half-season in League One might be good for him but given our financial situation I suspect he will be with us. Assuming of course we are not in League One ourselves!

Connor: I’ve been watching Pelupessy for over two years now and believe me I struggle to see what he offers. He seems like a genuine top pro, but he’s just not good enough. I agree with those sentiments on Lee, and it breaks my heart because he’s one of my favourite all time Wednesday players.

I actually wanted to see Hunt start in our last game at Brentford in a midfield three: he’d just had an impressive cameo against Manchester City, Luongo and Lee were injured I think, and Pelupessy offers nothing. So it was worth giving him a go, but Monk went with Pelupessy.

I’ll come back to the point I made on Urhoghide, if we’re not playing for anything I would absolutely throw the youngsters in, and certainly Hunt would be getting a few starts if I picked the team.

But if we’re battling to stay up, Bannan and Luongo would be my top partnership. I’m sure Hunt would get opportunities from the bench, and if we played with a midfield three he’d obviously have more chance of starting. Hunt over Pelupessy every time for me though.

Fraser Preston would probably struggle to get into the team because he’s a right-winger, and Jacob Murphy is probably the only player who has been better since the start of 2020.

Although again, if we’re in a situation where we know we’re playing for nothing, I’d happily see a 22-year-old play over a loan player. It does seem like this is make or break time for Preston though, at his age he has to either make an impression soon or move on for the sake of his career because he needs to be getting some first team minutes under his belt.

Mark: Pelupessy is our weakest player who for me shouldn’t be anywhere near the 1st team, he’s not up to it at this level. He seems a very likeable guy and always gives his all but he just doesn’t have the ability.

Lee has been brilliant for us but injuries have stopped him from being a top player playing the premier league. Signed as a second choice right back from Oldham Athletic, Stuart Gray moved him into central midfield and he’s been magnificent ever since, he’s just had some bad injuries.

Both Lee and Pelupessy are out of contract and I’m certain both will be released. Alex Hunt starred when he came on against Man City in the cup, he looks a real prospect. Barry Bannan raves about him and he even got Hunt to sign up to the same agency as him, I have high hopes for Hunt.

Preston however is out of contract and I expect he’ll be released. We’ll be very light of central midfielders after this season is over.

One goal this season is a surprisingly poor return for Adam Reach, who had been a perennial stunner hitter in the first half of the previous campaign. What do you think has caused the drop in his goal threat over the last 12-15 months?

Steve: Not sure really! Might be a combination of a few injuries, his position in the team being switched about it, a drop in confidence and the team struggling to move the ball forward with any degree of speed. Whatever the cause he hasn’t looked anything like the player (to any degree of consistency) that he looked last season.

Connor: Well I think it’s safe to say that run he had towards the back end of 2018 was pretty freakish, I’d love to see how much he outperformed his expected goals by! So I won’t judge him against a once-in-a-lifetime purple patch, but you’re absolutely right that his goal threat and productivity is probably the lowest it’s been in his Wednesday career.

I’m not sure if this is the only reason, but I prefer him on the left. Monk has exclusively used him as an inverted winger on the right-hand side, and I’m not sure if that’s his best role. I think he’s better when he can run at the full back, take a stride past them and whip a cross in.

Mark: Reach is another one who I would be looking to move on if we can get an acceptable fee for, all though in his defence he’s been carrying a knock this season the local press have been saying, this must have played a part.

He was very important in the poor 17/18 season for us and scored some worldies, but I haven’t seen enough of him since then. I do think he’d be a good fit for most Championship teams but I just think he’s outstayed his welcome here now, he has the attributes as he’s versatile, great passing range and normally he’s up towards double figures in the goals and assists each season.

But I would personally rather sell and re-invest into another Harris type winger.

Josh Windass, Connor Wickham and Alessio Da Cruz all signed on loan in January and have started 10 league games between them. Though there may be mitigating circumstances behind this, are you concerned that either or all these additions were not supported by the manager?

Steve: We are constantly told that the manager makes the decisions on recruitment but the stories that emanate from some sources lead fans to believe that actually might not be the case.

However they arrived it is clear that Wickham has not looked fit at all and a pale shadow of the player we had in his last loan spell, Da Cruz has struggled amidst the physicality of Championship football, Windass has the fitness and experience of the Championship  but has failed to make a consistent impact.

We are still overly-reliant on Steven Fletcher at the top end of the pitch and that given that the players you mention and Nuhiu, Forestieri, Winnall and Rhodes are not making much of a contribution either. Just imagine how much that lot is costing us financially!

Connor: I’ve not read anywhere that they weren’t supported by the manager to be honest, so I don’t know. But in general terms, of course the manager should support every signing that’s made because it’s his job to fit them into the team.

If Monk didn’t then that’s very worrying. The Da Cruz deal did seem very left-field, and I heard he has the same agent as Forestieri so out of the three, that seems like the one Monk may not have supported.

But it’s possible that somebody brought him to Monk’s attention, he watched him in games, looked at his data and he thought he’d be a good signing that would fit into our team. That hasn’t proven to be the case, but you’d like to think the club go through that process before making a signing.

Mark: Yeah there’s always that worry when new signings come through the door here, especially Da Cruz as he was totally left field, however Monk did say he’s been aware of him for some time.

When we signed him, I did a little research and it seems Arsenal were tracking him at one point, he’s shown glimpses of a tidy player with a good touch and movement, but in all honesty, we’ve not seen any way near enough of him to make judgement.

The Wickham signing seemed to be panic buy as Fletcher was out, but he doesn’t look fit and looks way off the pace. Windass on the other hand has got a couple of goals and I’ve been impressed; I’d like to see more of him and out of the 3 he’s the one I’d like here next season.

Wickham’s signing was likely to counter-balance the loss of Steven Fletcher to injury; you’ve taken 36 points from 23 games when the Scot starts, a return that would be enough to finish sixth if prolonged for the duration. What makes Fletch such a pivotal cog in this Wednesday side?

Steve: Midfield has looked weak and consequently we have gone back to front much quicker and directly. Fletcher has the engine to run the channels, the physicality to hold up the ball and the intelligence to link play well.

Plus, he has been getting in positions to score goals and his finishing has been good. He is the most important player in the team – offensively it just doesn’t function without him. The biggest risk has always been that we had no one who can do the job he does – that risk was exposed massively after his injury at Brighton in the FA Cup.

Connor: Fletcher has always been class for us. His hold up play, movement, strength and intelligence have always made him a great focal point to our attacks.

You can play long to him and he’ll win headers, or you can play it to his feet and he’ll hold defenders off and cleverly bring others into play. This season he’s become a lot more prolific, so he’s offered all the facets of his game that were good previously but added a hell of a lot of goals to that as well.

He was on track to get well over 20 goals if he’d have managed to stay fit and football had carried on. In terms of his importance, take what he brings to the team and double it, because none of our other strikers can hold the ball up or score goals anywhere near as well as he can. So when he got injured it was an absolute travesty.

Connor Wickham was brought in to try and replicate that, but it hasn’t happened for him. He’s struggled with injuries, so he doesn’t seem to have that burst of pace that he had in his last loan spell with us.

He’s also looked like he was a way off full match fitness. Combine that with a lack of service into him and all-round shocking team performances and you can see why it’s not gone well for him so far.

Mark: The man is a machine. I genuinely think he’s at his peak now, yes, he’s 33 and picked up a knee injury in January but he returned in the half time then we first feared, he was back playing 90 minutes in no time.

He had surgery in 17/18 season and has admitted since he recovered it’s the best he’s felt in his career. All his team-mates say he’s the most professional in the squad, always doing extra in the gym and takes real care of himself in general.

I think he could play at this level for 2 or 3 years at least. He has this great understanding with players, especially Bannan who can pick him out almost anywhere on the pitch.

He’s strong in the air, holds the ball up well and he’ll even be back defending every set piece. Once the ball goes up towards him, he’s the best I’ve seen in a long time at bringing others into the game, I feel he’s our most important player and it’s a no brainer to offer him a new deal for the 20/21 season. I’d even make him captain.

You’ve played two up top in 15 games this season and all the candidates to play just off Fletch – Atdhe Nuhiu, Jordan Rhodes and Fernando Forestieri – are short on pace. Do you need someone with a touch more mobility to compliment Fletch’s hold-up qualities?

Steve: You can add Winnall, Wickham and Windass to the list lacking place too! Yes, the team needs pace adding to it and it is something to be addressed in the summer window, subject to the financial constraints that may apply!

Connor: Absolutely. I wouldn’t say Forestieri is slow, but he prefers to drop in behind a striker rather than run in behind. Since Gary Hooper suffered a long-term injury in 2017, we’ve been crying out for a quick striker who can stretch defences by running in behind.

With that, you’d have the classic ‘big man little man’ combination with Fletcher, and they’d complement each other. Our strikers are too similar really, if you play someone with pace alongside Fletcher then you give the opponent something else to worry about.

Mark: Jordan Rhodes is the only contracted striker we have for 20/21 season as I write this. And he’s barely played, I wouldn’t be surprised for us to let him go for free to any suitors in the summer just to get him off the wage bill as he’ll be one of our highest earners.

But to answer your question, absolutely! We are in desperate need for pace, we saw a big improvement at the start of this season as soon as the pacey Harris signed, to have someone with those qualities to play off Fletch down the middle would be ideal.

I’d be looking for an U23 loan from a top half Premier League side or take a punt on someone from the league below, Johnson Clarke-Harris has been linked for a while now & I’d also be tempted to take punt on Armand Gnanduillet who’s out of contract in the summer.

I’d also like to sign Bez Lubala who started the season very well at Crawley, a player who has the potential to play a lot higher and has played under Monk before at Birmingham, he’s more of a wide player but has pace and is someone I’d be looking at signing.

Jos Luhukay often gets a lot of criticism among Wednesdayites and I’m not suggesting that he deserved more time as such, but he did give academy graduates a chance – it seems as though Bullen, Bruce and Monk have been cagier in that regard. Full-backs Ash Baker and Jordan Thorniley have left, Connor Kirby will probably be released, along with possibly Matt Penney – is this unhealthy for the squad’s long-term growth?

Steve: Penney has been playing in Bundesliga 2 whilst on loan and we hope he can return to a settled role in the squad in the left back position he looks most comfortable in.

The others you mention just didn’t develop and our Academy does look as if it struggles to produce players that can make it at Championship level. That said we hope that young Alex Hunt will kick on this season.

Personally, I believe the club infrastructure, including the Academy should have benefitted more from investment and that too much money has been wasted on expensive first team players who haven’t contributed much at all.

Fans love to see young players coming through the system and making it into the first team and that is something we haven’t seen enough of.

Connor: We have a real lack of good players between the ages of 20 and 24, but that doesn’t mean young players should be kept on because they’re young. They’ve got to be able to show they’ve got the potential to make it.

At the age of 23, Thorniley and Baker needed to be playing more regularly to do that. So for them, dropping down into the lower leagues was the right thing to do. It would have been wrong for us to stand in their way, and if they aren’t good enough to get any first team league minutes at their age, it’s hard to see them making it at the club.

I haven’t seen Macclesfield play this season so I’m not sure if Kirby has proven himself enough whilst he’s been on loan there. As for Penney, I think the club are trying to offer him another deal which is the right decision: he’s a year younger than Thorniley and Baker and out of the three he’s shown the most promise.

The threat to our long-term growth isn’t the fact that we’ve let some of these players go, it’s that we don’t have enough good young players who’ve made a real impact on the first team.

Up until Urhoghide played at Leeds, we were the only team in the EFL who hadn’t given a single minute to an under 23 player. That’s a result of our transfer policy and lack of investment in youth in the past few years. Hopefully, as the likes of Hunt and Urhoghide develop they’ll be able to improve that situation.

Mark: There’s no doubt that Luhukay was good for the young players, but too many came through and at the wrong time.

Out of all the youngsters who came appeared under him there’s only Hunt and Dawson who will be here next season, Penney could well be if he signs a new deal but the rest were just not good enough to play consistently in the Championship.

It did seem Luhukay was playing the youngsters for the sake of it sometimes which isn’t good for anyone. I’d like to see more of our u23’s go out on loan and then come back to stake a claim.

We have Ciaran Brennan, Conor Grant, Liam Shaw and Ben Hughes who I’d like to see loaned out at first to see if they can break through in the next year or 2. I don’t think many of the young lads Luhukay gave their debuts to had even had any first team experience at any level.

I think that’s a crucial step for breaking through. We’re a little behind with developing young players from u23’s to 1st team but I have a good feeling we’ve got a few that will break through eventually.

Wednesday haven’t been a force in English football since the early 1990s. How much needs to change for the club to make its way back towards the top table?

Steve: First, let’s assume we are still in the Championship next season! Second, let’s assume the Championship model of relegated PL clubs having an unfair financial advantage continues and the current FFP regimes remains in place.

Money will still be tight due to where we will be with the FFP situation so the manager is going to need 3 transfer windows to re-structure the squad and he will probably need to bring some new staff in to work with him too. I can see next season at best being a mid-table season with the possibility that a play-off tilt may be made the season after. That’s the optimistic view.

The pessimistic view could see a points deduction, relegation to League One and massive financial difficulties. All that would put us back a number of years.

Connor: Pretty much everything for you to be able to see that happening. Chansiri needs to either surround himself with experienced football people or sell the club because we’ve been run terribly and that needs to change drastically.

The culture within the dressing room needs to change, players need to come and go for that to happen. It all needs freshening up dramatically. That’s a short way of summing it up.

But I always think most Championship clubs are only ever one freakishly good managerial appointment from having a pop at it, due to the nature of the league. We’d have to overachieve massively because the foundations behind the scenes aren’t in place.

But clubs like Huddersfield, Cardiff and another team who I won’t mention have shown that it’s possible for things to change quicker than you could ever imagine. We can hope.

Mark: For me need a new identity. We’ve tried to spend our way out of this division but came up short. Chansiri has now exhausted all investment loopholes. So now we are going through a transitional period where our new signings will be mainly free transfers or loans.

But with good coaching and recruitment this can work, just look at our neighbours…. One big thing I think we need to change is the need to sell some players. For me players have their sell by dates at each club they play at, we have many in our squad that need releasing or selling on. (Most I have already mentioned).

But if we can make a profit on a player then why not take it and re-invest into the squad? Iorfa for example is our prizes asset and has been a great signing, but rather than turning money down on him and risk him picking up an injury or losing form I’d look to sell him for big money and then buy 2 players just as good.

Long-term I think that’s what we need to do. Short term we need to see what happens with the pending EFL charge; we could quite easily be playing in League 1 next season if found guilty. Then we really have no choice to sell players, maybe it could be a blessing in disguise in the long-term. Whatever happens in the short-term things are definitely changing at Sheffield Wednesday.