Friday, May 07, 2021

Sheffield Wednesday's Relegation Battle

I haven't written about Sheffield Wednesday much this season. While few people who read Sean's Ramblings care about the team, almost as important for writing purposes is that they have been awful. If Sheffield Wednesday was awful because the team was only playing younger players, that wouldn't be terrible. If they were tanking in the hopes of getting the top draft pick like Sidney Crosby, LeBron James, or Trevor Lawrence, that would be understandable. However, there are no drafts in European soccer, and the team isn't playing many young players. They are just bad.

A little background on the season. The team started with a 12-point deduction because of shady financials. I'm not going to elaborate on this since I don't fully understand the financial fair play regulations, but just know that before the season started, every team in the English Football League Championship had 0 points while Wednesday had negative 12. It looked funny in the standings, and it probably was for fans of the other 23 clubs in the league. Fortunately, the 12-point reduction was later reduced to 6 points. 

On the field, defender Dominic Iorfa, the team's player of the year for the 2019-2020 season, played only 10 league games before rupturing his Achilles. Solid midfielder Massimo Luongo has also only played 12 matches because of various injuries. I honestly think that if Iorfa was healthy all season, the team would be safe from relegation, and missing him and Luongo have been big losses. It also doesn't help that the team can't score goals. The team has scored 37 goals in 45 league matches. That's good (well not good) for 20th of the 24 EFL championship clubs and a major reason why they have been awful. 

Let's talk about managers for a moment. The team started with Garry Monk until he was fired in November and replaced by Tony Pulis. Pulis lasted all the way until the end of December until he was canned. Neil Thompson served as the caretaker manager until the club hired Darren Moore at the beginning of March. People seem high on Moore, but unfortunately, he has missed several games after developing pneumonia as a result of COVID. Moore will also miss Saturday's match with Jamie Smith taking on the managerial duties. Not very much consistency here.

Oh, did I mention that there have been several times when the players haven't been paid in full? If your employer is unable to pay you in full on time ONCE, maybe you chalk it up to a mistake as long as it's fixed quickly. If this happens several times, I can't imagine that you want to stay there. Yes, plenty of people say that they would love to play sports for free, but if you have to pay a mortgage, buy food, and spend money on childcare, you're not going to play sports for free for very long. I can't imagine that the players feel any type of loyalty to the club if the organization can't even do the most basic function of paying them on time.

So if you made it this far, you understand that the team is a mess. Still with all this, the team is still amazingly alive to remain in the championship division. For those of you not familiar with relegation/promotion, the best teams in this particular league get promoted to the Premier League for the opportunity to get destroyed by Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City, Chelsea, etc. However, the difference of being in the Premier League and the EFL Championship is millions and millions of dollars. Plus, you get the chance to compete with these teams. The bottom three teams get relegated to EFL League One. Think of the Premier League (or at least the top teams in this league) as a private jet. The Championship is probably the middle seat of a commercial flight. League One is a DC to New York bus. Little to no television coverage and much less money involved. You really don't want to go to League One.

So on Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday plays against Derby County managed by DC United great Wayne Rooney. (He may have played somewhere else too.) If Sheffield Wednesday wins and Rotherham United (yes, this is a real team) loses or draws Cardiff City, Sheffield Wednesday will finish in 21st and avoid relegation. Despite being awful, Derby and Rotherham have been just as bad if not worse. According to the FiveThirtyEight website, Wednesday has an 83% chance of getting relegated. This seems bad until you realize that this percentage was in the mid-90s a week or two ago.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to wake up for the 7:30 AM Sheffield-Derby match on a Saturday morning. (One or more of my kids is usually up by this time, so it's not as taxing as it would have been in my younger days.) I'm going to buy ESPN+ specifically for the match. I'm going to put on my Sheffield Wednesday T-shirt. And I'm going to cheer for Wednesday to win and stay up. 

And if they lose, I guess I can write a blog post this fall to try to figure out what a MK Dons is and who Accrington Stanley might be.

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