Sheffield Wednesday v Norwich City: Owls fans must not look for scapegoats – Loovens

Owls captain Glenn Loovens (Picture: Steve Ellis)
Owls captain Glenn Loovens (Picture: Steve Ellis)
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Sheffield Wednesday captain Glenn Loovens is the epitome of calmness at Hillsborough.

After back-to-back defeats for the Owls, social media has seen fans quick to look for answers, if not scapegoats, despite Wednesday sitting five points clear in the play-offs.

Sheffield Wednesday's Keiren Westwood and Vincent Sasso. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Sheffield Wednesday's Keiren Westwood and Vincent Sasso. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

It has ranged from the culpability of defender Vincent Sasso – standing in as cover for the injured Tom Lees – to Jordan Rhodes, the newly-arrived striker who has netted just once in six outings after he missed a penalty in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds United.

That Elland Road loss came after a poor performance against Brentford – where a late goal could not paper over the cracks in a miserable 2-1 home defeat – and piles the pressure on Wednesday to get something from today’s visit of Norwich City.

The Canaries are six points adrift of the Owls, while seventh-placed Fulham are five behind, but have a game in hand.

After coming so close to winning last season’s Championship play-off final, and seeing millions invested into the playing staff, expectations have risen not just on the pitch, but with supporters also.

Not that Loovens pays too much attention to the naysayers, or the world of Twitter and Facebook.

“Personally, I don’t do a lot on social media, or read many newspapers,” said the Dutchman, in fluent English heavily weighted in placidity.

“It’s important what we do out every day on the pitch. If I see people slacking off, or not doing their job, I will be the first one to let everyone know.

“I think in this group of players we have a lot of characters who will correct each other if we feel like someone is not giving 100 per cent.

“The fans support us, of course they can give their opinions – that’s not a problem. It’s more important we try to help each other, the fans as well, when they see we have a tough time, to get behind us.

“It’s always easy when someone is down to stamp your foot on them.

“At this moment in time, I think it’s more important that we are behind each other.

“Morale is fine. Of course you’re not happy if you don’t win.”

There is no argument the Owls are missing injured centre-back Lees, out for over a month.

But Frenchman Sasso is an able replacement, helping to keep clean sheets in his first three starts, and chipping in with two goals.

Loovens is quick to absolve his fellow defender of any individual blame.

“Sasso has done a brilliant job for us,” he said. “I think the first three games he played, we got three clean sheets, so nobody argues then.

“Now we have conceded a few goals so it’s not fair to (blame) him. Of course, Tom is a good player and we want him fit as soon as possible, but not because of Sasso doing a bad job.”

As for Rhodes – who will complete a club record permanent signing in the summer, when his loan from Middlesbrough runs out – his only goal for the Owls came in the 3-0 win over Birmingham City.

He has been starved of scoring opportunities, as Wednesday look to adapt their game to create more clear-cut chances for the striker.

But Loovens, 33, inisisted: “Once he gets going for us I think he will be unstoppable. I have seen him do that time and time again.

“Of course we need to give him a better service for him to do his part.

“I am sure him, of all people, will have been gutted at missing the penalty at Leeds.

“But we do everything as a team. We defend as a team, make mistakes as a team, go forward as a team.”

Wednesday drew at Carrow Road 0-0 in August, and face one of several clubs – which also numbers Fulham, Barnsley and Preston – who are chasing sixth spot, which the Owls currently occupy.

Loovens said: “It will be a bit special, Norwich are just below us and trying to take our spot. A tough game, but one we are looking forward to play.

“We can’t afford to lose three times in a row, we have to get back to winning ways and what better way than against your rivals for the play-offs?

“They have a good team and some great players, and I expect them to make it really hard for the rest of us.

“The Championship is so physically – and mentally – demanding, and I think the quality of play on the pitch has improved a lot over the years.

“A lot of teams play football the right way, and this division is getting harder and harder to get out of.

“We have to make sure we do it quicker, rather than later.”

Wednesday have a decent record at Hillsborough this season – conceding just 14 goals in 16 outings, losing four times – despite opposition teams now aware of the Owls’ threats.

With seven of their remaining 12 games at home, this could be key for Carlos Carvalhal’s side.

“People do expect a bit more from us this year because we had such a fantastic season last time,” said Loovens.

“Also, with the players that we brought in, that’s normal and how football works. We have to make sure we do it justice.

“Last season, nobody expected anything from us, we were a bit more free-flowing, but teams come here now with a game-plan.

“It’s harder to break teams down. Every year the level of the Championship goes up, it’s harder in this league to win games (than last time).

“But we have more home games coming up now and that should give us an advantage.”