AHEAD of this lunchtime’s reunion with Carlos Carvalhal in the FA Cup, captain Glenn Loovens insists Sheffield Wednesday owe a huge debt of gratitude to their former head coach for restoring a sense of belief to the club during his tenure.
The Portuguese’s return to Hillsborough just 55 days after calling time on his two-and-a-half-year reign is an intriguing sideshow to the Owls’ attempt to book their first appearance in the quarter-finals for 21 years.
Carvalhal twice led Wednesday to within touching distance of the Premier League only for results to nose-dive this season.
A section of the support turned on him after the home defeat to Middlesbrough on December 23 and he was gone, by mutual consent, the following day.
Now, as manager of rejuvenated Swansea City, Carvalhal will walk back into Hillsborough today and Loovens believes the 52-year-old deserves a warm reception.
“No-one will say a bad word about Carlos because he did a good job and got along with all the players here,” the veteran defender told The Yorkshire Post. “He came in and we had two great seasons with near-miss promotions.
It is funny, as I texted Carlos (before the fifth round draw) to say it would be nice if we were to see each other in the Cup – and then we picked them out.Glenn Loovens
“I think he gave the club a little bit of belief back. Okay, this year didn’t work out the way it was supposed to but that is football at times. Things happen the way they happen. We had a lot of injuries, we didn’t contribute as well, the results were not there and then something is always going to happen in football.
“Unfortunately for Carlos, it was time for him to move on. But everyone here owes him a lot. He brought in most of the players, he extended most players’ contracts and got respect from everyone.”
Carvalhal’s return to Hillsborough is not the only big Cup tie being staged in the county today, with Huddersfield Town also at home to Manchester United.
The Terriers famously ended Wednesday’s promotion hopes last May with a penalty shoot-out victory in the play-off semi-finals.
Coming on the back of the 2016 final defeat to Hull City at Wembley, being knocked out in such a heart-breaking manner came as a huge blow to Carvalhal.
With the benefit of hindsight, that two-legged loss to Huddersfield proved to be the beginning of the end for the Portuguese in S6.
Despite the Owls briefly being in the top six during mid-September, this season rarely looked like bringing the success that chairman Dejphon Chansiri craves.
He and Carvalhal parted on amicable terms but victory today would take Wednesday into the last eight of the Cup for the first time since 1997 and the second time in more than three decades.
It is a huge incentive, especially in a campaign when the expected promotion push has gone so awry.
Loovens, who appeared in the FA Cup final 10 years ago for Cardiff City, added: “The Cup is something to look forward to, especially a tie against our old manager.
“It is funny, as I texted Carlos (before the fifth round draw) to say it would be nice if we were to see each other in the Cup – and then we picked them out.
“It will be nice to catch up with him. I think he did a great job for the club and I wish him all the best. But we do want to win this game.”
Under Carvalhal, Swansea City have taken 14 points from seven games to escape the drop zone. The Portuguese’s imaginative footballing analogies have also found favour with the media.
Wednesday fans, of course, became well used to such talk during his time at Hillsborough with Carvalhal once comparing striking the right balance in a team to creating a fine meal with potatoes and fish.
Then, there was the infamous time he punched a £20 note on the desk to illustrate that his team had not lost value despite the 4-2 Steel City derby defeat to United in October.
Loovens added: “He is clearly enjoying the Premier League. I remember a few of those (analogies). We heard about the fish and, of course, I remember the (bank) notes!
“As for predicting his team (today), I thought I knew him but then he played five at the back for Swansea. He has changed a bit as well for the Premier League.
“I have got no doubt he’ll change it again so we will have to be ready.”
The midweek win over Derby brought an important step away from trouble in the Championship after a worrying run of just one win in 15 league games.
“We still have work to do in the league to stop having to look behind us,” said Loovens. “But this Cup game is something to look forward to. I have played in an FA Cup final so I know how big the event is.”
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