THESE are exhilarating days to be a Sheffield Wednesday supporter with the feel-good factor growing all the time.
It is a positive time to be an Owls player also – just ask lifelong Wednesdayite Liam Palmer.
Any personal disappointment at not playing as many times as he would have liked so far this season have been overridden by being part of a new chapter in club history which is promising to be a truly enriching one.
After several seasons of seeming to just muddle along, the Owls are back in business and in vogue.
For some pockets of Wednesdayites whose enthusiasm had dimmed in recent years, it has been a bit like renewing vows. For the hardcore across considerable areas of South Yorkshire and the North Midlands, it is a reward for some stoic patience.
Palmer hails from Worksop, a place where there are also sizeable pockets of Owls, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Leeds supporters.
The Owls fraternity from the North Nottinghamshire town, just over the border from South Yorkshire, are currently piping up and with good reason.
Despite Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup exit at Stoke, positivity abounds at Hillsborough with a big televised match with Derby County tomorrow to look forward to as the Owls seek to propel themselves into the play-off pack for Christmas.
The whole mood of Wednesdayites is encapsulated perfectly in the Carlos Had A Dream song which has raucously done the rounds in recent months and for Palmer, witnessing some happy days is a joyous rewind.
More especially at Hillsborough, which prior to this season had resembled more of a house of pain, with entertainment and excitement back on the menu.
Palmer, who deputised for calf injury victim Jack Hunt in last weekend’s 2-2 Roses draw at Blackburn Rovers, told The Yorkshire Post: “Everyone you speak to is full of optimism and excitement and that has shown especially in the home games this season and everyone has heard the song. It’s good to play in that environment, the players do feel that and we are moving in the right direction.
“I have been here since I was seven and a little boy and this is certainly the best group of players I have worked with and the table also shows we are in and around it and moving in the right direction.
“I have had more requests than in previous seasons from mates saying, ‘Can you get me tickets?’. There is that element to it and they realise we are looking to kick on.”
Detecting a pronounced new vibe at Hillsborough for home games, he added: “Yes, you can feel it, especially this season.
“When you actually play, you don’t feel as much negativity. But when you are sat there, taking in the game and you literally have got the fans sat at the side of you, you get more of a feel and there’s a lot more encouragement, positivity, excitement and optimism around the ground during games.”
After Tuesday’s quarter-final at Stoke, the Owls have another seismic fixture to negotiate – in front of the TV cameras – against Derby, arguably a much more important one in the greater scheme of things this season, if truth be told.
Opportunity knocks for Wednesday, aiming to make a pre-Christmas Championship statement to guild a vibrant opening to the campaign – and it is something of which Palmer is conscious in what could turn out to be a definitive month in the Owls’ campaign.
On the notion of statement making, the 24-year-old added: “You can see it that way. But we are under no illusions. It’s going to be a tough game and they are on a good run.
“But we should definitely give them a good game and it should make for an exciting one.
“They are well organised and it’s a case of staying patient with the ball and I know they like to have the ball as well and have good players.
“We have seen the fanbase on previous occasions and we saw against Arsenal that they can come in their numbers and December can be a make-or-break time, and if we come out looking strong then we will really have a chance.”
On the threat posed by Derby, who have held sway over Wednesday, who have not beaten the Rams in 14 matches – and head to S6 on the back of a run of 10 wins in their last 13 matches and just one defeat – Palmer said: “I watched the last game on Sky and they looked a really strong outfit against a good Hull side.
“They managed to pick up three points and they have hit some real form at the moment and it’s definitely going to be a tough challenge.
“They are always up there in and around it. I know they had a slow start under the new manager, but they have found their feet and will be looking to kick on as much as us.”
After a moribund first half of 2015, it has become a year to remember for the Owls following the arrival of Dejphon Chansiri – with a renaissance in fortunes also transpiring on the pitch.
For Palmer, the calendar year could have been better, with an injury at Fulham in March ending his season prematurely, with the midfielder turned right-back now largely playing second fiddle to Hunt.
This said, Palmer has kept involved and made seven appearances so far in 2015-16 and while it is a figure that he dearly wishes was higher, he is not one for griping.
Offering his take on 2015, he said: “Personally, it could have been better. But as long as the club are doing well and I am chipping in, it’s not like I am completely out of the picture and I have been able to help the team when called upon. For me, that’s as good as anything. For my form, you do like to play more to get that momentum, but you do what you can and give the best.”