Sheffield Wednesday players have had to be nothing if not adaptable over the last eight months.
Since they were last at Ewood Park, the Owls have had three changes of management regimes.
It speaks volumes for the clarity of present boss Garry Monk’s message and the receptiveness of his players that despite that, they take on Blackburn Rovers again today within striking distance of Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion.
When it comes to getting used to new managers, Joey Pelupessy may not have as much experience as some of his team-mates, but he knows a thing or two about adaptability.
The Dutch midfielder uprooted from his homeland in January 2018 and has had to adjust to the far more intense and varied styles of play and feast-or-famine fixture list of English football’s second tier.
Ten minutes before kick-off against Leeds United last week he had to get his head around starting the game after an injury to Julian Borner in the warm-up saw him promoted from the bench.
Every time you have to show what you can do. It’s not always easy but I think you get stronger and learn from that.Joey Pelupessy
December’s 4-2 defeat in Blackburn was another sign that Jos Luhukay’s time as manager was coming to an end. Within weeks he had been replaced by Steve Bruce, who put right-hand-man Steve Agnew in caretaker charge while he took extra time off to recuperate from two operations.
Bruce left for Newcastle United in the summer, leaving Lee Bullen in temporary control until Monk’s arrival in September.
“It was a period of eight months where we changed a lot of things,” says Pelupessy.
“In Holland I had the same manager for the last three or four years (with previous club Heracles) and I saw only one change. At Twente there was maybe only one change in three or four years.
“Steve Bruce came in shortly after that Blackburn game and changed the team a little bit. At the beginning I didn’t play much so that was also hard.
“At the end of the season I played a few times in the first XI then the season finished and we had a new manager. At first Mr Bullen took it over, then this manager came. Every time you have to show what you can do. It’s not always easy but I think you get stronger and learn from that.”
New managers often bring a bounce but what has been impressive about Wednesday under Monk is their organisation.
It is not by chance they have only conceded four times in his eight league games, and sit just three points off the top.
“The defensive organisation is the foundation, especially in this league, and then you work from there,” explains Monk. “I didn’t have the luxury of pre-season but what we have been able to do in a short space of time is give them that foundation.
“I have learned from experience that the key is to put the team in a position where they can be really competitive. It is not going to be the finished article and it is not what we eventually want to be overall but that foundation means you can compete in games straight away.
“If you can gather points and be competitive in every game like we have done, that gives you time to build the rest and gives confidence and belief to the players.”
Monk talks about a “clarity”, which can only come from not over-complicating his message and players intelligent enough to take it on board.
“I have told them what I expect with the ball and exactly what I expect when we don’t have the ball,” says Monk. “Players work better when they know exactly what is expected from them. Within that, you allow their creativity and quality to come through.
“I have always thought if you can get a year of work with a team then eventually they know their roles and the team’s and that’s when you have got a fully-functioning team.”
It has been hammered home with monotonous shadow work.
“We practised a lot with 11 players against zero to practice if the ball’s on the left side, we move together, if it’s on the right side we move together, we stay compact,” reveals Pelupessy. “For the first two weeks we did this almost every day and it was maybe getting a little bit boring but we know we need this to be solid, compact and comfortable. We’re still doing it.
“Everyone’s comfortable in the squad, sure what he has to do, when he has to press, what the movements will be when he has the ball, all these details, and we still have to work on it but it’s going well.”
For everyone’s sake, the hope must be that this latest management change is the last for a while.