Carvalhal’s Hillsborough arrival still leaves plenty of questions

Carlos Carvalhal.
Carlos Carvalhal.
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IT has been a summer of head-scratching at Hillsborough and supporters trying to second guess the thought process of the hierarchy at Sheffield Wednesday.

Stuart Gray’s abrupt removal 41 days after the final ball of last season had been kicked, following on from the equally surprising departure of Adam Pearson from his post as newly-appointed advisor to the owners was enough to, if not quite start the alarm bells sounding across S6, then at least have the ringers contemplating whether to take up their positions.

Since Gray’s dismissal, there has also been the ‘will he, won’t he?’ saga involving Mark Cooper and this week’s appointment of Carlos Carvalhal as head coach following earlier speculation that the little-known Portuguese was set to come on board as general manager.

Throughout this upheaval, all Owls fans have had by way of explanation has been a couple of official statements on the club website so supporters have been left in something of an information vacuum.

That should change a week today when Wednesday will belatedly unveil their new head coach to the media.

Owner Dejphon Chansiri not being due back in Yorkshire until July 9 is behind the unusually long delay and it will be fascinating to hear from not only Carvalhal in person but also the club’s Thai chairman.

Certainly, many questions are being asked by supporters right now on internet forums and social media.

Such as, how did Carvalhal first appear on the club’s radar? Did he apply to succeed Gray? Was the one-time Besiktas manager recommended? And if so, by who? What sort of football does the new man prefer to play?

All these and more should be answered at Hillsborough next week but, until then, the best Owls fans can do is try and glean some insight from Carvalhal’s CV.

It reveals that the 49-year-old has been in charge of 14 clubs in 14 years, and none in the last three. What his resume also shows, however, is a degree of success in his native Portugal. Carvalho, a former defender, managed one of the country’s giants in Sporting Lisbon but it was third tier Leixoes – his fourth club – who he guided to not only the Portuguese Cup final but also the first round proper of the UEFA Cup in 2002, the club’s only appearance in European competition since the end of the Sixties.

Promotion followed with Leixoes, while he later took Vitoria Setubal into the top flight. Undistinguished spells followed at Braga and Beira-Mar before a return to Vitoria brought another UEFA Cup qualification.

His biggest job, at the helm of Sporting, arrived in 2009 but he lasted just six months before moving on to Turkey and then, for the last two seasons, the United Arab Emirates to take up a post as technical director of Al Ahli.

This wide-ranging experience means Carvalhal, who speaks excellent English, arrives in Sheffield as no rookie.

But, what will matter most from hereon in, is how he adapts to a division that is like few others in Europe.

For his part, Carvalhal has already impressed those who work behind the scenes at Hillsborough with his pleasant manner and enthusiasm for the challenge that lies ahead.

The club statement to confirm his appointment – released so late on Tuesday night that it missed most newspaper deadlines – gave a similar impression.

“Sheffield Wednesday, it is an historical club with amazing fans – they love their football and their club,” he said.

“I want be part of these feelings, to love the club with a big passion and try to give happiness to all.

“To achieve that we must play positive football, and if we do that, we can all go the same way.

“I have coached big teams in Europe like Sporting and Besiktas and played in the Europa League but my child’s dream has always been to coach in England.

“To come to England and to a club like Sheffield Wednesday is amazing. I’m excited and I want to win the trust of our massive fans.

“The new owner has a big project for Sheffield Wednesday. He knows what he wants and the way to go there.”

Carvalhal, who met the players on their return for pre-season yesterday, is in the fortunate position of starting from a good base. The squad Gray left behind is in decent shape.

Last season’s improvement from 16th to 13th may not look too inspiring but the Owls, for the first time since pipping Steel City rivals United to promotion in 2012, looked a good, solid Championship outfit.

Goals may have been hard to come by, and especially on the pudding of a Hillsborough pitch that made constructive football nigh on impossible during the depths of winter.

But, crucially, Gray made Wednesday difficult to beat, as the fourth best defensive record in the division underlined.

If Carvalho, with the club’s financial backing, can bring in the attacking flair to capitalise on that stingy defence then the Owls – who will benefit from playing on a newly-laid pitch – could be something of a dark horse in next season’s Championship. Over to you, Carlos Carvalhal.