Scotland internationals Barry Bannan and Andrew Robertson aim for more than bragging rights at the KC Stadium tonight. Richard Sutcliffe reports.
BARRY BANNAN is enjoying the sort of season at Sheffield Wednesday that makes a recall to the Scotland squad only a matter of time.
So says Andrew Robertson, the Hull City left-back who tonight is hoping to put a big dent in his fellow Scot’s hopes of winning a Premier League return with the Owls.
“I know Barry Bannan very well from the Scotland squads,” the 21-year-old told The Yorkshire Post when asked about a player who has made a big impact since moving to Hillsborough in late August on an initial one-year deal.
“We get on really well and he is a smashing player, always tough to play against, whether it be in training or a game. I came on at Hillsborough (in October when the two teams drew 1-1) and he was tricky.”
That last sentiment about Bannan is one, no doubt, shared by many Championship opponents. After joining the Owls from Crystal Palace, the 26-year-old quickly established himself as a key member of Carlos Carvalhal’s side.
A new extended three-and-a-half year contract was his reward in January, just a few weeks after Bannan had ended a personal two-year goal drought. All that is missing now is the chance to add to his 20 senior caps for Scotland, the midfielder having been overlooked by Gordon Strachan since May.
Robertson, a regular under Strachan, added: “Barry had done well at Palace but was finding it tough to cement his place. Sheffield Wednesday is a big club and he was delighted to join just to get games.
“He has found his form again. He dropped out of the Scotland squad but I have no doubt he will be back in soon. I am delighted for him because he is a great guy and smashing fella. I hope he goes from strength to strength, though only after Friday night.”
Wednesday will head to the KC Stadium still smarting from Tuesday night, when a missed penalty by Atdhe Nuhiu saw the south Yorkshire club held 1-1 at home by QPR.
All the other clubs residing in the top six won, meaning Carvalhal’s men cannot afford another slip tonight if automatic promotion is to remain a target.
For Hull, meanwhile, victory would pile the pressure on the chasing pack ahead of matches tomorrow for Burnley, Middlesbrough and Derby County plus Brighton & Hove Albion’s home game with Leeds United on Monday.
“It is always a tough one to say who is chasing the top two,” said Robertson when asked about the promotion race. “Five or six wins on the bounce can bring you right back into it.
“I am looking at Sheffield Wednesday and they have a squad capable of going on a run like that. Otherwise, things are very tight between ourselves, Burnley and Middlesbrough.
“Derby have had a blip and lost their manager but have won twice this week. They will come back and make a late push, I am sure about that.
“We just have to approach it in the way that if we win every game, we get promoted. The manager uses the phrase about the ‘tickly bit’ of a season coming up quite a few times. We just have to relish the challenge. If you are getting nervous and having sleepless nights or panicking about it, then you won’t perform to the best of your abilities.
“This is something to try and relish. We want a Championship medal. Five or six teams are thinking that whichever team doesn’t crack will go on to win it, especially if already at the top. It is a time to hold your nerve.”