LIAM PALMER is hoping Sheffield Wednesday can ease last year’s Wembley play-off heartache and be crowned Yorkshire’s top team in the Championship this season.
If the Owls can achieve that feat, it is possible they will be plying their trade in the Premier League come August after a 17-year exile.
For sixth-placed Wednesday would have finished above Yorkshire rivals Barnsley (8th), Leeds United (3rd) and today’s Hillsborough visitors Huddersfield Town (5th).
Last season, the Owls came third in the Yorkshire rankings in the Championship – behind Middlesbrough and their play-off final conquerors Hull City – and are well-placed for another promotion push this term.
Long-serving defender Palmer – who joined the Owls aged seven, around the time of Wednesday’s Premier League relegation – has been a passenger on the Owls roller-coaster over the last 18 years, and knows what promotion would mean to the Steel City club.
“We are all fighting at the right end of the table,” said 25-year-old Palmer. “It’s nice to see for Yorkshire but I know the fans will want us to be on top of that pile come the end of the season and we will definitely aim for that.
“Leeds, Huddersfield and us are pushing for promotion so, hopefully, we can be the ones to do it.
“It does add that little bit of extra spice with the Yorkshire teams doing well.
“In recent years, we have been playing them when we have all been down near the bottom.
“Huddersfield set off like a house on fire but they have maintained it. They have got some really good players as we saw at their place.
“We know we have to switched on for 90 minutes as they’ve got Nahki Wells, who is a proven goal-scorer, and Kachunga has done well for them. They’ve got some good talent up front and, as a defence, we have to be aware of that.”
Four points separate Town from Wednesday – Leeds are third with 48 points – with Barnsley outside the top six, a further four points adrift with 21 games remaining.
While Huddersfield have won six of their last seven outings, the Owls have only suffered defeat once in nine Championship games.
“It’s vital to get as many points as we can on our home turf,” said Palmer.
“It’s so tight up there that a couple of wins against the teams around us can really make a difference.
“We know how important the next month is and I think after this month we will have a clearer indication of whereabouts we are heading to.”
After today, the Owls travel to leaders Brighton next Friday night, the start of five evening kick-offs before they visit Nottingham Forest on Saturday, February 18.
“I think we are a few points better off than last season,” said Palmer, who made his 150th appearance in the FA Cup defeat at Middlesbrough last weekend.
“We are sitting in a better position. We have got other teams in our sights and that’s who we will be trying to chase down and get up as far as we can.
“It is a good milestone to hit and the next target is to get 200.
“Sheffield Wednesday is the club I’ve always known. It’s quite rare that you get a player who is a one-club man.
“Obviously I had a stint on loan (at Tranmere) but I’ve played here all my career and I would like to continue to do so as long as possible. Staying here for as long as possible is at the forefront of my mind. The club is moving in the right direction. The foundations are there and why would anyone want to leave?”
Wednesday have been active in the January transfer window, but Palmer believes new deals for first-team regulars Sam Hutchinson and Fernando Forestieri are “as good a two signings as we will make all window”.
Hutchinson is Wednesday’s midfield general, while Forestieri – after his early-season troubles, when he refused to play at Norwich City – looks to be finally settled.
“It’s fantastic to see them committing their future to the club,” said Palmer. “We all know what happened with Nando and his little altercation. But to get his deal done early in January shows where he is at and that he wants to stay and for us that’s great.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the league so it was great to get that done early and stop any sort of nonsense as there have been a lot of rumours.
“And Sam has been our best player this season.”
The signings of Morgan Fox, Callum McManaman and Sam Winnall – who joined the Owls yesterday from Barnsley in a £500,000 deal – follow Wednesday’s transfer policy in January of only recruiting players experienced at Championship level,
Owls coach Carlos Carvalhal explained: “Our priority, in January, the middle of the season – winter, sometimes snow – with the Championship is very specific. If we bring in a player from abroad now, how long will it take him to adapt?
“We need players who know the competition. Our focus is to bring players in from England.
“We want to do better. Last season at this moment we were in eighth position. We are now sixth and we have five more points, so we are better than last season and are progressing.
“In my opinion, this Championship is stronger than last season. There are eight or nine teams who are chasing the top six. To progress, we must look at opportunities and sign better players.”