Carlos Carvalhal believes his Sheffield Wednesday team have “grown up” since their early Championship struggles.
The play-off chasers travel to Bristol City tomorrow, 39 games after they opened the season with a 2-0 win over the Robins.
Wednesday went into the season, under unknown head coach Carvalhal, with some pundits even tipping the Owls for relegation.
Five points from their first six games left the Owls 19th in the table, the only win coming when Tom Lees and Lewis McGugan netted in that opening day win.
But Carvalhal has moulded a side capable of pushing for promotion - the Owls sit fifth in the Championship ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Ashton Gate - and added some astute signings like Barry Bannan, Fernando Forestieri, Daniel Pudil and Gary Hooper.
“We are growing up as a team and a club,” said Carvalhal. “A lot of things have changed since the first game of the season. It seems like three Championship seasons ago (since the start of the season).
“We have played so many games since, and it’s been a long journey - a nice journey.
“We have seen the team grow up. I was looking at the table and we were in 19th place after the first six games.
“We started building a team, added players, improve the team and tried to do our best.
“Our defensive organisation is better, it’s not anything different to what we did but the players understand our ideas.
“We have a very good balance now between attack and defence.
“The third best attack and defence in the Championship. That’s fantastic, because to score goals and not concede is the correct balance, and the team has shown maturity.”
While the Owls have matured, there has only been tinkering - not an overhaul - of the squad.
Surprisingly, from the 18 named by Carvalhal for the opening day game on August 8, eight months later and only four players changed from the match-day squad which beat Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night.
Out went Jeremy Helan, Jose Semedo and Caolan Lavery, while Sam Hutchinson missed the game with illness. Incoming were Pudil, Hooper, Forestieri and Aiden McGeady.