If Sheffield Wednesday clinch promotion today back to the Championship, Owls midfield player Jose Semedo believes it will be the perfect reward for the Hillsborough club’s long-suffering fans.
Over 37,000 home supporters will fill Hillsborough for the final League One match of the campaign with Wednesday needing to match or better city rivals United, who are at Exeter, to clinch automatic promotion.
Semedo has been a rock at the heart of the Owls’ midfield after his summer move from Charlton Athletic but the 27-year-old Portuguese star puts their long unbeaten run at the end of the campaign down to the club’s loyal support.
Going into the Steel City derby in February, Wednesday trailed the Blades by five points and had played two games more than their rivals. Defeat would have meant a potential 14-point deficit and handed Danny Wilson’s side a massive psychological advantage.
The Owls won, however, and now stand on the brink of promotion.
“The fans deserve it, more than anything,” said Semedo. “It’s because of them that we are in this position.
“I remember two months ago and if it had not been for them we would have given up, definitely. We had lost three games in a row, were five points off second place – United had two games in hand – but we couldn’t give up as the fans kept behind us and it is because of them that we are in this position.
“As a player, I thought it was going to be really difficult, but every home game when I step onto the pitch and see all the blue shirts, they make you keep going and believing. We hope we finish where we are now,” added Semedo, who started out at Sporting CP, before loans at Cagliari in Serie A where he played against AC Milan.
Those three defeats against Exeter, Stevenage and Chesterfield before the derby cost Gary Megson his job. Not even Chris O’Grady’s Steel City winner at Hillsborough could stave off Milan Mandaric’s axe and Dave Jones was swiftly appointed as the new manager.
Including the victory over the Blades, Wednesday have gone on a 13-match unbeaten run and Semedo believes Jones’s appointment was crucial.
“Dave Jones has done a fantastic job, everyone can see what he has done,” he said. “He has given us a sense of freedom, to express ourselves, and he has been amazing for us. He was the key and gave a big lift to the team, even those who haven’t been playing.
“To see Sheffield Wednesday back in the Championship would be the beginning of a good run for the club, the beginning of everything,” added Semedo, who was voted Charlton’s player of the year last season and deserves a similar accolade this term at Hillsborough.
While hoping for automatic promotion today with victory against relegated Wycombe, Semedo has been blown away by the intensity of the two Steel City derby games this season and hopes the Blades go up via the play-offs so they can make it a Championship fixture next season.
“I hope everything goes well for us against Wycombe, and I hope if we get promoted that United can go up, too. This city cannot live without the derby.
“What I have seen this season was unbelievable, it was the best two games I have ever had in my life, definitely. I have played in Italy against Milan, but I would change that game to play the derby games.
“It’s unbelievable, the derbies, those two games against United. To see the atmosphere around the city, Sheffield needs the derby.”
The Owls are second after winning at Brentford last week before Stevenage, despite tossing away a two-goal lead, held the Blades to a 2-2 draw in the evening kick-off.
Wednesday players watched the Bramall Lane game on the team coach, and Semedo revealed there were a few nail-biting moments on the trip up the M1 before the final whistle sparked huge celebrations on board.
“Someone nearly broke the mirror on the bus when the game finished, it was really exciting for us.
“To be fair to us, we were a little bit tired before our game, then the one we watched on TV made us even more tired.
“It was the best bus journey in my career. It was the best trip. It was boring on the way down to London, but on the way back it was a big party.
“No one wanted to watch on TV (those last five minutes). Someone shouted ‘turn the TV off’, people were looking out the window at nowhere, some had their heads down. When the referee blew the whistle there was a party.”
Trying to maintain normailty this week has been tough.
“It’s been a fantastic week for us, and finally we are at the place where we have wanted to be all season. We are really excited.
“We have just tried to make it a normal week, like we have done before, doing the same things. It’s impossible, though, it’s such a big game for the club. Even at home I try to do the same things.
“It’s really difficult, fans tell me how sad they are going to be (if we lose), if I go to the shopping centre and meet fans they just talk about this game. It’s impossible to be a normal week.
“We just must do the same thing we have been doing for the last three, four, five, six games and then we can bring a big happiness to these fans because they deserve it.”