AFTER a month out of the side and a couple of days on his sickbed earlier this week, Lewis McGugan really could not have announced his return in more spectacular style.
The 26-year-old, fresh from becoming a father, fired Sheffield Wednesday into the Capital One Cup fourth round with the winner against Newcastle United.
A glamour tie at home to Arsenal was the Owls’ reward and the midfielder could not have been happier.
“Arsenal are the sort of team you want to be playing and pitting your wits against,” said McGugan. “Hillsborough will be rocking that night, I am sure about that.
“It is always nice to get a goal, of course it is. It has been a hectic time. I have just become a father and I had also been down with the flu for the two days before Newcastle.
“So, it was a nice feeling to be able to get back out there, nice to be back playing and get back to normal.
“My little boy is here now and that is fantastic. But I have to try and get back to work now.
“I always wanted to try and be involved. If that meant I would be struggling the day after, so be it.”
McGugan was one of 10 changes made by Carlos Carvalhal as the Owls stunned Newcastle and perhaps the most popular among supporters who quickly took to the midfielder during last season’s loan stint at Hillsborough.
His name was cheered loudly by the near 5,000-strong travelling army of fans before kick-off and that support was fully justified 14 minutes from time with the winning goal.
Knocking out Newcastle continued an upturn in performances since the international break and McGugan, who could be back on the bench at Brentford tomorrow, believes Wednesday are ready to move up the Championship table.
He said: “It was a good, all-round performance from everyone. Every single player was brilliant and we deserved the win.
“There is a momentum and things feel to be coming together. That is always a good feeling for a club, long may it continue.
“There were so many positives from the Newcastle game and we have to take that into our next few matches.”
On his own time out of the side, McGugan added: “The team have been doing well while I was out and the players have done great.
“There is a lot of competition that can only bode well for the club. Everyone is going out there to stake their claim. Sometimes, you have to bide your time and when an opportunity comes along make sure you take it.
“Getting through and drawing Arsenal was brilliant, but our focus now is on a massive game this Saturday at Brentford.
“We have to dust ourselves down, recover and go again. The Championship is full of tough games and this is another. We have a bit of momentum now and we need to take that into Brentford and give a good account of ourselves.”
Wednesday night’s heroics were in stark contrast to what happened to the South Yorkshire club 12 months earlier at the same stage of the competition.
Despite being level at half-time against Manchester City, the Owls crashed to a 7-0 defeat at the Etihad.
Liam Palmer was in the side that night and admits to having relished every second of what was his first visit to St James’ Park. “A great night,” said the full-back. “The gaffer gave us a game plan and we were disciplined, stuck to it and got our rewards.”