Team of the Decade: Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday Team of the Decade
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - 14 MARCH - A general view of the exterior of locked gates at Hillsborough stadium, the home of Sheffield Wednesday on March 14, 2020 in Sheffield, England. The coronavirus has led to the suspension of all English football matches until at least April 3rd (Photo by Ben Early - AMA/Getty Images)

Welcome to Last Word on Football’s Team of the Decade series. Today we look at the players and manager who have made it into the Sheffield Wednesday team. The Owls started the decade with relegation to League One but managed to bounce back with promotion at the second time of asking.

After a few mid-table finishes, Wednesday reached the Championship play-offs in 2016 and 2017 – losing in the final and semi-final respectively. However, the last few years have seen them return to mid-table mediocrity.

Sheffield Wednesday Team of the Decade

Manager – Carlos Carvalhal

A complete unknown on English shores before his arrival in 2015, Carlos Carvalhal was the man who so nearly led the club back to the big time in his first season. Fans fell in love with his charming charisma and attractive style of play, which led Wednesday to the play-off final in 2016. The Portuguese led the Owls to a fourth-place finish the season after – their highest finish since suffering relegation from the Premier League in 2000. Despite that, after losing to Huddersfield Town in the semi-final that year, things started to unravel and Carvalhal was sacked on Christmas Eve 2017 with the Owls in 15th place.

Goalkeeper – Keiren Westwood

Although he’s not currently in Garry Monk‘s first-team plans, if you ask any supporter born in this century who their favourite Wednesday ‘keeper of all time is, they’re likely to go for Kieren Westwood. The former Irish international joined the Owls on a free transfer from Sunderland in the summer of 2014. He equalled a club record of 17 clean sheets in his debut season, and he did the same the season after as the Owls got to Wembley. Thirty-four-year-old Westwood’s consistent ability to make big saves also earned him a place in the PFA’s Championship Team of the Year for the 2014/15 season.

Right-Back – Lewis Buxton

Buxton signed for Wednesday in 2009, and after a difficult start to his time at Hillsborough, he emerged as a fans’ favourite in Wednesday’s League One promotion season. His solid and reliable performances made him a solid fixture in Owls’ back four as they avoided relegation in their first season back in the second tier. The Isle of Wight-born defender deservedly won the club’s Player of the Year that season.

Centre-Back – Tom Lees

Another free transfer, Lees signed for Wednesday in the same window as Westwood. He formed a solid partnership with Glenn Loovens, who broke the club’s clean sheet record alongside Westwood. Plenty of fans questioned the wisdom of snapping up a defender who Leeds United were prepared to lose on a free, but Lees vindicated his transfer within the first few months after putting in a series of solid performances. He’s now the club captain.

Centre-Back – Glenn Loovens

Dutch defender Loovens signed for Wednesday in December 2013. The club had just sacked Dave Jones, and they were in the relegation zone. Loovens made an instant impact and added a calming influence to what was struggling back four. He went onto make 131 appearances for the Owls, captaining the team on many occasions.

Left-Back – Daniel Pudil

Wednesday originally signed the Czech defender on loan from Watford, before making his switch permanent in the summer of 2016. A reliable defender who was an excellent crosser, Pudil cemented himself as Wednesday’s first-choice left-back. He made a total of 101 appearances, scoring four times.

Right Wing – Michail Antonio

Noted for his devastating pace, Michail Antonio first checked into S6 on loan from Reading in February 2012. He played a starring role in Wednesday’s return to the Championship, scoring the opening goal in their promotion-clinching win over Wycombe Wanderers. Indeed, he went on to make his switch permanent for a fee of £750,000. Antonio scored eight times as Dave Jones’ men avoided relegation in their first campaign back in the second tier. Antonio signed for Nottingham Forest in 2015 and he’s now a key player for West Ham United in the Premier League.

Central Midfield – Kieran Lee

Manchester United academy product Kieran Lee is one of Wednesday’s longest-serving players. A free transfer from Oldham Athletic in 2012, he initially joined the club as a right-back. He struggled for chances under Dave Jones, but Stuart Gray made him a first-team regular in central midfield after Jones’ sacking. From then, Wednesday and Lee never looked back. He established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet, and his terrific energy and ability to link the play have always made him a popular figure at Hillsborough.

Central Midfield – Jose Semedo

Defensive midfielder Jose Semedo was the Owls’ Player of the Year in their promotion season, catching the eye with his ability to protect the defence by breaking up play. He initially struggled to make the step up to the Championship, but after he’d had a season in the second tier, Semedo looked like his old self once more. Wednesday fans had their own ‘Semedo Day’ against Nottingham Forest in 2012, such was his popularity. Around 4,000 Owls fans wore Semedo masks in the away end.

Central Midfield – Barry Bannan

A pivotal part of Wednesday’s play-off campaigns, Barry Bannan featured in the Championship Team of the Year for the 2015/16 season. His tireless work rate, cultured left foot and a great eye for a killer pass really set him apart from any midfielder Wednesday have had throughout the decade. Bannan joined the Owls on a free transfer from Crystal Palace in 2015. He’s racked up 188 appearances so far.

Left Wing – Fernando Forestieri

This may be a controversial choice, as the Argentine has never quite fulfilled his potential as a Wednesday player. A lot of that is down to various injuries and suspensions. However, it’s hard to overlook the impact he had in his first two seasons at Hillsborough. After joining from Watford in 2015, Forestieri won the club’s Player of the Year. He scored 15 times and looked unplayable quite a few times as the Owls got to the play-off final. The impact he had in the season after wasn’t quite as noticeable. Despite that, he still managed to register 12 goals and six assists.

Striker – Steven Fletcher

Signed on a free transfer from Sunderland in 2016, Fletcher has been the Owls’ best striker for the last three years. He combines his physicality with an impressive touch and great football intelligence to bring others into play. This season, the Scotsman had scored 12 goals before Christmas. Unfortunately, he picked up a knee injury in the FA Cup win at Brighton & Hove Albion which he’s only just recovered from.

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