• Adam Stubbings

Opposition Talk: Sheffield Wednesday with Jude Hall

Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday re-ignite their South Yorkshire rivalry after seven years when they meet on Saturday in League One, with all eyes on the dugouts at Hillsborough after Darren Moore's departure from Rovers to join the Owls a few months ago. Our editor sat down with Wednesday fan Jude Hall to get his thoughts on Moore and his Wednesday side in the wake of the club's relegation and return to League One.

ITEN: There’s no better place to start than with the manager. What do you think of Darren Moore’s tenure so far?

Jude: Darren has been a complete breath of fresh air. When he was appointed, it was quite out of the blue and a shock to all involved, and I think at the time Wednesday fans were just relieved we had appointed a proper manager after giving the reins to the caretaker boss for a bit too long.

Darren came in with a huge job on his hands to try and steady an already sunken ship. So, when we inevitably were relegated on the final day of the season, as gut-wrenching as it was, I think the majority of supporters had already accepted our fate a long time ago. Nobody could really blame Darren, especially as he missed a lot of games due to Covid, and he’d done well to take it to the last game of the season.

It’s the summer where he’s really made his mark. Despite only being able to bring in free signings and loans, he’s done a remarkable job of rebuilding the squad and bringing in some top quality players for this level. I don’t think any Wednesday fan was expecting such a turnaround – 14 new signings to date.

On top of that, he’s managed to keep hold of a lot of key players despite reported heavy interest, with the likes of Barry Bannan, Dominic Iorfa and Josh Windass (who has just signed a new contract) still at the club, all of whom are far too good to be in League One in my opinion.

Moore has brought such an air of optimism back to Hillsborough and seems the perfect man to turn things around. He’s such a likeable bloke and has the fans’ full backing. Now it’s time to really see what he can do with his own players.

It’s been a busy summer in the transfer market. Who stands out as the more important

acquisitions for Wednesday so far?

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer. Moore deserves huge credit for changing the way that Wednesday have gone about their recruitment in recent years, seemingly looking at more risk-free signings and a lot of younger players with a point to prove.

The free signings of Jaden Brown, George Byers and Dennis Adeniran all fit that bracket and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do. They all have Championship experience with their best years ahead of them. Adeniran in particular has really impressed me in the middle of the park so far from what I’ve seen of him.

The loan signings of Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Lewis Wing have probably been the most eye-catching of the new boys, with both turning down Championship enquiries to come to S6. Peacock-Farrell gives us the reliable #1 we’ve missed for the last few years, and Wing just seems far too good to be in the third tier. He has an unbelievable eye for a pass, Middlesbrough fans seem gutted he was sent out on loan again, and I think him and Bannan could be really fun to watch together this season.

Lee Gregory looks another coup for Wednesday coming in with a fantastic goal record, giving us the #9 we were crying out for. Amongst these bigger names, Moore has also brought in quite a few wildcards. Forwards Theo Corbeanu (on loan from Wolves), Florian Kamberi (on loan from St. Gallen) and Sylla Sow all come in as unknown names, who could either light it up or amount to nothing. Either way, the difference with this window to others is that all signings as mentioned come in as frees and represent low-risk deals with potentially high rewards.

This is a South Yorkshire derby game. What are your thoughts on the match itself, and Doncaster Rovers as opponents and rivals this season?

It won’t come as news that Doncaster aren’t our biggest rivals. The typical Wednesday response is that it ‘means more’ to Doncaster than it does to us. However, nobody wants to lose a derby of any type. If anything, it makes it worse when Wednesday lose a derby to a supposed ‘smaller’ team, so don’t be fooled, there’s always that hunger from a blue and white side to keep the local fans quiet.

Wednesday’s record against Rovers of late is quite frankly dreadful, having lost the last five encounters, and that’s definitely something we need to nip in the bud now.

I can’t say I’ve followed Rovers’ summer too closely, it was hard enough keeping up with the incomings at Hillsborough! But it seems like Rovers have lost a lot of personnel from last season and it looks like a rebuild is on the cards.

So I think Wednesday will certainly be looking at this as a huge opportunity to get a first win under their belts, with the backing of the fans at home too. I don’t think there’s any chance of Moore underestimating Rovers having managed them, and he will be desperate to get one over his old club. Wednesday will certainly be going into it with confidence but in a South Yorkshire derby anything can happen.

The club have seen some tough times recently under Dejphon Chansiri’s stewardship, where do fans stand on how the club is being run at the moment? Would a promotion this season right the ship to some degree?

Like I say, this summer has been a breath of fresh air. Where Moore deserves credit for all he’s done, so does Chansiri. We’re being run like an actual football club again and I don’t think anyone was expecting such a positive summer.

One of Chansiri’s main advisors, Amadeu Paixao, supposedly had a lot to do with recruitment in the past but has taken a step back from the club, as a result giving more control to the likes of Darren Moore and his staff. So credit where it’s due to Mr Chansiri, who seems to finally be learning from his mistakes.

Amongst this, it is still worth noting that a lot of journalists get their transfer hints from his son’s Instagram account, as the youngster follows any new signings weeks before they eventually arrive at Hillsborough, which is quite amusing.

Despite finally looking to turn things around though I feel like for some fans it may be too little too late. In all honesty, Wednesday shouldn’t be in this division, especially when you look at how much money we’ve spent over the past few years. So I think promotion is more of a need and wouldn’t completely redeem the chairman, although it could be a new dawn for the owner and maybe signify that Wednesday have turned a corner.

On that note, where do you see Wednesday shaking out in League One this season? Promotion or bust?

At the start of the summer I had resigned myself to a midtable season, steady the ship and look long-term – but it’s hard not to get dragged into the excitement after the summer we’ve had. I think, on paper at least, we’ve assembled a really top quality squad for this level.

In Hunt, Palmer, Iorfa, Hutchinson, Dunkley, Brown you’ll struggle to find a better set of defenders in this league. Similarly, Wing and Bannan have to be two of the best central midfielders in League One, and with a recognised striker in Gregory, and Windass when back fit, I think we look a real threat.

The only worry is that with a lot of new lads it can take time to gel. Wednesday fans will have to be patient at times because we’re not going to just walk the league. It’s going to be a really competitive division this year with Ipswich and Wigan also having big transfer windows as well as the likes of Lincoln, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Charlton who were strong last year. Not to mention the other two relegated sides. So, it’s going to be tough but, with the squad that Moore has assembled along with his knowledge of this level, I think you’d be brave to write Wednesday off.

Play-offs has to be the minimum for me, and I’d like to think we’ll be competing for one of those top two spots. But, I don’t think it would be the end of the world if we weren’t promoted straight away. I think with Moore we finally have a manager who looks at the longer-term plan and is building a squad for the future not just for a quick-fix shot at promotion.

This game will be the first at Hillsborough for fans in a very long time. How are you feeling about returning to live football?

Mixed emotions personally. We played Huddersfield in the Carabao Cup a few weeks ago and I was unfortunate to miss that due to having to isolate. And now I’ll be missing this one too as I’m away, having booked a holiday before the fixtures were out!

So, on a personal note I’m absolutely gutted to be missing it. I think as football fans you really attach yourself to your team’s ground. It’s a second home and it doesn’t sit right with me that I’ve not stepped foot in Hillsborough for about 18 months and now I’ll be missing the big return.

However, I think it’s going to be a really great day for the fans that are able to attend. The cup tie was a bit of a nothing game, and league football is the bread and butter, that’s what gets the bigger crowds. With such a positive summer and a lot of excitement around all the new boys I think Wednesday fans will be out in force to give them a big welcome. Similarly, I think Doncaster will travel in their numbers for a derby game and will make themselves heard, and a big away attendance always adds spice to the atmosphere.

It'll be a great day, likely an emotional day for many regardless of the score. A local game just adds even more heat to the occasion. And I think on the pitch I’d be expecting a really good game of football too. Wednesday will be keen to show their supporters what they’ve got this season and Doncaster will be doing all they can to keep the home fans quiet.