Sheffield Wednesday big-match preview: Bannan setting new goals

Sheffield Wednesday's Barry Bannan (Picture: Steve Ellis).
Sheffield Wednesday's Barry Bannan (Picture: Steve Ellis).
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Australian cricket legend and war hero Keith Miller once famously said: “Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”

As quotes go, in terms of putting notions of stress in the sporting realm firmly into perspective, it is perhaps unsurpassed.

You sense that Barry Bannan and Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal would probably enjoy that quote if it came to their attention.

Miller’s obvious lifetime experiences precluded any notions of feeling pressure when on the pitch.

Others quickly develop a coping mechanism and thick skin to deal with expectation in sport and it is something that Bannan has cultivated in a career that saw him cut his footballing teeth at the biggest club in the Midlands in Aston Villa and once be unhelpfully compared by one former manager to iconic Barcelona midfielder and World Cup winner Andreas Iniesta.

Now at Wednesday, another club where expectations are high – with the desire to return to the top flight of English football an obsession – Bannan has similarly learned that dealing with pressure is also part of the gig.

The best thrive on it and cope with any criticism that comes their way, too.

Within that context, it will take more than a poor opening-day defeat at Preston to unnerve Bannan and his team-mates.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “There are expectations here and rightly so. When you let the team down, you are going to get criticism, rightly so.

“I have had it before and it is part and parcel of the game. If you are going to play for big clubs, you’re going to get it. You hear it and see it, but if you let it affect you, you are going to struggle to be a footballer. You have to come back stronger.

“What happened at the end of last season was tough to take, especially with it being two seasons in a row now.

“But you grow from it and it makes you stronger in life, with the setbacks. We are looking to get promoted, there’s no getting away from it.

“I have had loads of setbacks since I was here and we have shown great character to bounce back. There is no reason why we can’t do that again. We have had setbacks and people criticising us. But we have been sixth and fourth, so we must be doing something right.

“The manager is big on telling people not to worry and have your self-belief. He is very good at picking players up when your back is against the wall and you are getting criticism. He is on top of things like that.”

After fronting up after last weekend’s insipid loss at Deepdale, Carvalhal quickly set to doing something about it and turning the page, with the Owls’ uplifting Carabao Cup victory over Chesterfield representing a positive reaction in anyone’s language.

Bannan believes that the reaction of many to last weekend’s defeat was a little strong, but he has learned to appreciate that it pays to move on quickly. He said: “We were hurting (after Preston). But a lot of people are forgetting it was the first game of the season. We wanted a better performance and obviously never got that. But you have got to give credit to Preston. I thought they did their homework really well and played a good game on the day.

“But a lot of people jump to conclusions. It was the first day of the season and a long season. It was important not to get ourselves too down. We deserved a bit of criticism, but not as much as what had been going on.

“It was as if it was the end of the world; we lost 1-0 away at Preston, which is a tough place to go. We try and blank out what goes on off the pitch and know as a group in the changing room that we are a good, good team and no one will tell us any different.

“We have got our own self-confidence and know, over the previous two seasons, what we are capable of.

“Every defeat hurts, but the good thing about football is that you have games coming up thick and fast to put it right, which is brilliant.

“We were on top of the world (after Tuesday) and we have to try and carry that on to Saturday.”

The sight of Bannan orchestrating play with a touch of swagger on Tuesday night – crowned by a lovely, if rare, goal – represented perhaps the biggest substantive from Wednesday’s serene cup progression.

It remains to be seen if Carvalhal hands the silky Scot similar licence to roam against QPR when Championship business resumes this afternoon – but one thing that the schemer is set upon is contributing more to the goals column.

Bannan, who netted for the first time since last September in Tuesday’s 4-1 win, said: “It is something I am working on.

“I want to score more goals and help the strikers out and see myself as more of an attacking player than a defensive one and attacking players have got to score goals.

“That is what they get judged on and I don’t think I have done that over the past two seasons.

“Last season was hard for me to score, given the position I was playing, which was a lot deeper.

“On Tuesday, I was given the freedom to go anywhere in a formation which probably (best) suited the way I play.

“I enjoyed the freedom to go and express myself to go and make things happen further up the pitch and try and score goals.”

In an ideal world, Bannan would prefer to retain the attacking brief in which he revelled on Tuesday, but he is not holding his breath.

On whether he prefers to play there, he added: “Of course, but the formation will change and we will certainly set up differently for different teams.

“The manager is very good tactically and my position will change numerous times during the season.

“It is something I have looked at and will work on and will try and get more goals.”