THE season of goodwill appears to be embracing at least one Portuguese manager in the English game – even if it has turned its back on the self-styled ‘Special One’.
While Jose Mourinho is licking his wounds after his dramatic sacking at Chelsea, his compatriot Carlos Carvalhal is having a far rosier time of it up the M1 at Sheffield Wednesday.
And he can look ahead to the new year with confidence, not recriminations and foreboding.
The team collective palpably let down Mourinho in the final analysis at Stamford Bridge where a disparate gathering of precious souls have represented a bedraggled mob for large parts of this season.
Over at Hillsborough, by contrast, the unity and togetherness is as strong as a granite sea wall, and Carvalhal’s post-match reluctance to single out individuals – after an afternoon when Fernando Forestieri and Daniel Pudil in particular had occasions to savour – was telling.
Throughout much of the autumn, a lot of what Carvalhal had touched seemed to turn to gold with the Owls one of the undoubted form horses in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
But come the winter and a five-match winless streak ahead of the arrival of Wolves was threatening to undo some of that enriching work.
Fortunately for Owls fans, the unseasonably warm early winter weather was not the only thing that smacked of autumn yesterday, with Wednesday’s performance in keeping with much of what they produced in September, October and November.
Character was also displayed by the Owls after they trailed early on, due to a penalty from former loanee Benik Afobe, who celebrated his 16th-minute opener in front of the Kop.
But after Forestieri’s first of the afternoon four minutes later – again from the spot after the rampaging Lucas Joao was felled by a combination of another former Wednesday loan player in visiting captain Danny Batth and Ethan Ebanks-Landell – the hosts did not look back and feasted on the carcass of a shocking Wanderers defence.
It helped provide the Owls with a milestone first home victory over Wolves at S6 in over half a century, since September 1964 when Herman’s Hermits were at No 1 in the charts with I’m into Something Good.
As are Wednesday, stirred back into life in a renaissance campaign, albeit with Wolves helping them along the way with a collective dereliction of defensive duty.
After candidly admitting that one or two of his players wept tears of frustration after the lame midweek loss at MK Dons, Carvalhal will have witnessed somewhat more pleasurable emotions in the dressing room after yesterday’s game.
The Owls’ previous home game against Derby may have resembled a tactical arm wrestle, but choice entertainment was firmly back on the menu against Wolves, whose defence imploded for a spell en route to a 3-2 home loss to Leeds United on Thursday.
A re-run of sorts arrived at Hillsborough, but not before the visitors produced some early intent and quality to forge a quick breakthrough.
It arrived when lively winger Jordan Graham tumbled on the left-hand side of the box following Ross Wallace’s challenge, with Afobe coolly sending Kieren Westwood the wrong way from the spot.
Casual Wednesday had suffered a let-off prior to the visitors’ opener, with James Henry chipping over a vacant goal after sloppy play by Owls’ captain Glenn Loovens.
But, to their credit, the hosts regrouped and did not look back after their quick-fire leveller from Forestieri.
In contrast, Wolves’ brittle defensive traits came to the fore, more especially in the second half of a game which ended up being as one-sided as it gets as Wednesday salivated at the prospect of a rout.
After his successful penalty, Forestieri doubled up by firing home after Batth, under pressure from Joao, could only half-clear following Wallace’s free-kick.
Forestieri converted a half-volley from 10 yards out, with his effort taking a slight deflection off Dominic Iorfa.
At the other end, Nathan Byrne just failed to convert Graham’s sublime cross before Ikeme showed his mettle to race out and deny Joao – who had powered onto Barry Bannan’s pass – and then block Forestieri’s follow-up before Ross Wallace curled wide of the empty goal.
Wednesday were starting to dissect Wolves’ rearguard with increased regularity, with a combination of Ikeme and the woodwork denying Joao just before the break.
This came shortly after the visitors were penalised when Ikeme handled a backpass from the nervy Ebanks-Landell.
The Owls settled the issue just before the hour when Pudil’s sweet left-footed shot flew into the top corner.
It then became a question of damage limitation for the visitors and fill-your-boots time for the hosts.
Forestieri spurned chances to grab the matchball, one audacious chip just drifting off target with Ikeme stranded, and it was left to Gary Hooper to put gloss on a rewarding afternoon in stoppage time.
The loanee struck his first goal at Hillsborough on his maiden league start on home soil after being teed up unselfishly by fellow substitute Atdhe Nuhiu – a factor duly noted by Carvalhal following the game.