Barry Bannan knows first-hand the rollercoaster of emotions that Sheffield Wednesday fans could experience today after sitting with supporters during his recent ban.
The Scotland international joined thousands of travelling Owls fans at Huddersfield Town’s John Smith’s Stadium earlier this month.
Sat in the away end, Bannan became a YouTube hit, as the midfielder – serving a three-match ban for a red card – joined in with fans celebrating their 1-0 win.
His sending-off at Nottingham Forest on March 12 meant, with the international break, when he played for Scotland against the Czech Republic, Bannan was sidelined from domestic football for a month.
The 26-year-old only returned for last week’s 4-1 loss at Bristol City, and is keen to make ammends, starting with today’s visit of Ipswich Town.
So how did he end up in the away end at Huddersfield?
“It was my mum and dad,” said Bannan. “They were doing the zip wire at Hillsborough and I was training and I think they were talking about getting the supporters’ bus.
“I didn’t see much of the game.
“When word got about I was in there, I was harassed a little bit. It was all good. It was brilliant, although I would rather have been on the pitch than in the stands.”
With the Owls chasing a play-off spot and an end to a 16-year exile from the Premier League – they sit sixth, five points ahead of Cardiff City – emotions are running high, off the pitch if not on it.
Bannan said sitting with the supporters gave him a unique insight to a club where he has quickly become a fans’ favourite after his summer move from Crystal Palace.
He said: ”It’s unbelievable. You can see the fans when you are on the pitch, but when you are amongst them you see how passionate they are about this football club and they were brilliant on that day.
“The boys got the win, which made it even better. It was unbelievable to see how proud and passionate they were.
“I feel loved and a big part of the club. I get that feeling from the fans, manager and players and it makes your confidence sky high. It is hard to knock someone like that. I feel wanted and loved.”
Being forced to watch from the sidelines after his controversial red card was tough on Bannan, and his comeback against Bristol City hardly went as planned.
“It was good to be back out there,” he said. “It felt like I was out for ages with the international break. I was glad to be back out there, but the result didn’t go the way I wanted it to.
“It was frustrating personally because I didn’t think it was a red card. I thought I got the ball, but that’s football. It happens.
“I missed three games, but we luckily we won all the games. The boys were brilliant so that made it a bit easier. Obviously you want to be out there helping them so it was tough. Hopefully I can help for the big push in the final five games.
“Sometimes you get decisions, sometimes you don’t. A few weeks ago, we had a period where we weren’t quite getting the decisions, but it evens itself out over a season. We have got five games left so hopefully we can get a run of decisions.
“Bristol City was a minor blip. We will learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Maybe it was the kick in the teeth we needed going into the final five games of the season.”
First up are Ipswich, who are eighth, eight points behind, and the visitors are desperate for a win to keep their own play-off hopes alive.
Bannan believes Wednesday must hold their nerve as they enter the home straight. After today, they are at home to MK Dons on Tuesday night, host Cardiff, and have away games at Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“We have put ourselves in a great position,” said Bannan. “We’ve just got to worry about ourselves.
“We have to focus on our performances. If we do that and do things in the right way, then we will be in the play-offs.
“We’ve got quite a few guys who’ve been there and done it, which is always quite good for positions like this. They keep a calmness in the group, which helps.
“It’s a big game for them and us. They’ve still got a chance so it is a massive game. We have to concentrate and do our jobs properly so hopefully that will be enough.”
As for Wednesday’s top-six aspirations, he added: “We have to take it each game as it comes.
“We are in pole position. It is up to us if we keep winning our games. We will be in there.
“We are looking to finish as high as we can. We will try to win all five and see where we finish in the table.
“We just need to do our jobs, keep our concentration and work as hard as we can and hopefully that will get us over the line.”
Owls captain Glenn Loovens looks set to return today, alongside goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, after the influential duo missed last week’s defeat at Ashton Gate.
Dutchman Loovens has shrugged off his ankle injury and will be reunited with Tom Lees at the heart of Wednesday’s defence.
Owls’ head coach Carlos Carvalhal said: “Glenn is okay. I said after the last game he will start training normal and he’s fit to play. I am happy when we receive all the players and when all the players are available to play.
“Glenn is the captain of the team, he is all the time present, he’s a player that in difficult times will always stand up and say I am here.
“He doesn’t hide away, he makes a presence and I appreciate this kind of personality.
“He has a personality that says I am here and I can help the team if you need it.”