Sheffield Wednesday v Rotherham United: How going Dutch can help Owls’ cause for promotion

Owls defender Glenn Loovens, above, battling with Barnsley striker Sam Winnall. (Pic:Steve Ellis)
Owls defender Glenn Loovens, above, battling with Barnsley striker Sam Winnall. (Pic:Steve Ellis)
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THE Dutch capital of Amsterdam has considerable attractions for those with a whole manner of eclectic tastes, but for Sheffield Wednesday captain Glenn Loovens, it also represents enemy territory.

When questioned about the Owls’ recent bonding trip to the ‘Venice of the North’ for their players’ Christmas party, the one-time Holland international did acknowledge the success of the trip, albeit with a little caveat.

Lee Frecklington

Lee Frecklington

Loovens revealed that he is from Rotterdam and that the cities remain ‘big rivals’, not just exclusively on the football field either where Feyenoord’s enmity with Ajax is comfortably the biggest in the Eredivisie.

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In comparison to bohemian Amsterdam, Rotterdam is often portrayed as its unpretentious, slightly unglamourous neighbour forged on a solid reputation for graft and a down-to-earth attitude.

Matt Derbyshire beats goalkeeper Keiren Westwood to give Rotherham victory at S6 last season.

Matt Derbyshire beats goalkeeper Keiren Westwood to give Rotherham victory at S6 last season.

As a metaphor, that sums up Loovens’s footballing persona quite nicely.

Back in harness after injury issues in the opening third of the season, Loovens – who will line up in the heart of the back four in this afternoon’s derby with Rotherham United – is going about his business in typically no-frills fashion.

It is called getting the job done. That represents something the Owls largely have done in 2016-17, despite the perception that some of the stardust from their play-off final-reaching exploits of last season has gone missing.

Loovens begs to differ, while a haul of 34 points from 21 games so far this term – four points more than the club managed from the same amount of matches in 2015-16 – provides sustenance to Wednesdayites, too.

On whether he has been satisfied with the Owls’ efforts so far, Loovens said: “I think so. Sometimes, they all say it is not the same as last season. But we are thereabouts and I am sure if we keep working hard, we will be there at the end of the season.

“It was important to bounce back from the final we lost and new players came in and the manager had to see what the best formation was again. Things like that take time.

“But we are not doing badly at all. People sometimes make it worse than what it is. We are still where we should be and I think at the end of the season, we will be there again and pushing for promotion.

“We are playing well and are well organised at the moment and with the players we have, we always create chances. I think the team is in a good way.”

Winter certainly served Wednesday well this time last year with Carlos Carvalhal’s side losing just twice from November 21 to February 20, which enabled them to make a discernible impression on the top six and crucially possess the stamina and confidence to stay there.

As it stands, the Owls are also well placed once more with their recent trip to Holland further assisting in terms of aiding the bonding process ahead of the winter grind when togetherness, team spirit and organisation can go a long way.

Loovens said: “I never knew about these ‘bonding sessions’ until I came to the UK. But it was a good time together and sometimes it helps you through tough times.

“As a team, things like this help you when things are tough. Although I am not from Amsterdam, but Rotterdam, and we are big rivals!

“But these trips are important as you learn to know people in a different way sometimes. There are so many games that you have to do it in the right time and at the right place.

“We had a good time and it give us a good push for the months to come.”

The rivalry Loovens is concerned with today is nothing to do with his home country, but everything to do with more parochial matters – namely on opposing sides of the Tinsley Viaduct as Rotherham visit Hillsborough.

No-one of an Owls persuasion will need reminding that the Millers famously turned them over on their own patch in early March – not that Loovens is keen to recollect the events from that early Spring afternoon anyway, with the veteran defender having quickly turned the page.

Despite moving on from that episode, what Loovens does fully expect is a no-holds-barred encounter against a Millers team fighting for their Championship lives, as they were in the second half of last season.

Loovens, seeking a similar outcome to events on Tuesday night when Wednesday saw off Barnsley to successfully take three points in the first ‘leg’ of their Hillsborough derby double-header, said: “It is totally different (to the last meeting). We are in different situations.

“I don’t like comparing things too much and we must treat it as a separate game and come out on top. If we are to push for promotion, we need to win these games at home.

“Defeats are never nice, it doesn’t matter which game you play in. But that last result against Rotherham is so far in the past and I cannot even remember what I ate last night! Let’s forget about these things and see what is coming.

“It is going to be a hard game, no doubt about that. They are fighting for survival and it is a local derby and there will be some extra tension on the game.

“Sometimes, the ones who are at the bottom fight the hardest and make it the most difficult for you to play against and I expect a very hard game.

“We dropped points against teams last year who we expected to pick up points from. But that is the league we are in. If you take your foot off the pedal, you will get done for it.

“We have to make sure we do not commit the same mistakes this year.”