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FA Cup preview, Sheffield Wednesday v Swansea: Left out in the cold but Frederico Venancio has no axe to grind

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THE recent footage of Carlos Carvalhal handing out Pasteis de Nata – a traditional Portuguese pastry similar to a custard tart – to the press contingent at Swansea City painted a picture of an avuncular uncle full of bonhomie.

Given Frederico Venancio’s lack of first-team opportunities at Sheffield Wednesday in the first half of this season under Carvalhal, you might have expected the Owls defender to feel less than genial towards his compatriot or convinced by that image either.

Frederico Venancio: Grateful to Carlos Carvalhal.

Frederico Venancio: Grateful to Carlos Carvalhal.

But that cannot be any further away from the truth.

It is somewhat ironic that the exit of Carvalhal to Wales has coincided with Venancio making a belated statement at first-team level at Hillsborough – with the ex-Owls head coach seemingly doing his fellow countryman few favours in his time at S6.

Venancio, handed his Owls debut in Carvahal’s final match in charge against Middlesbrough just before Christmas, has prospered ever since. But he plainly has no axe to grind with his old coach, whom he still harbours warm feelings towards after handing him his passage to Wednesday.

That is even if Venancio will be aiming to do Carvalhal few favours on his return to Hillsborough this lunch-time, less than two months after leaving South Yorkshire.

Venancio, brought in by Carvalhal on a season-long loan from Vitoria Setubal in mid-August, said: “I am really grateful and thankful (to Carvalhal) as I was waiting for the opportunity (in England) and he was the one.

“I am not negative against him, it is more the opposite. I am really positive.

“I understand sometimes why I did not play, I needed some months to adapt. As a football player, sometimes you have to wait for your chance and my chance has come now. Basically, I am not upset because of that, but really thankful as he was the one who chose me.”

Despite a difficult final spell in charge at Wednesday, Carvalhal’s reputation back in his homeland of Portugal is a solid one, according to Venancio, and it has been fortified by his sterling work at Swansea, where he has impressively hauled the seemingly-doomed looking Swans out of the Premier League drop zone.

At the moment, there is a love-in on the Gower Peninsula between Carvalhal and his fanbase, with his eccentricities and colourful analogies being lapped up by Swans supporters, not to mention the local and national media.

It is far cry from his final days in Sheffield where his frustrations were such that during one infamous press conference in late September, he animatedly screwed up and battered a £20 note to make a very visible point to stunned journalists.

It was a moment which saw most Wednesdayites cringe.

Carvalhal is back in town today and for Venancio, who bares no ill feelings, it is all part of the highly individualist Carlos ‘package’ – a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve and is, fundamentally, a good guy and a talented one, too.

Venancio said: “I guess it is the Portuguese way. He is a really funny guy and a nice person.

“He has a good reputation (in Portugal). A long time ago, he was the boss at the club where I was in (at Setubal) for a long time. Some people there said: ‘Carlos was a good boss and a good person.’ It helped me in my decision and I felt the same here.

“He was a great person and his assistants were the same. They always tried to help me.

“He is doing a great job there, but this Saturday we will try to win the game.

“I don’t say he is going to be an enemy, but it is like that feeling. He manages a team we want to beat and we will try our best to do it.”

One Portuguese may have departed Sheffield this winter, but another in the shape of Venancio is desperate to extend what is turning out to be a love affair with the Steel City into something more long-term.

Wednesday have an option to sign Venancio on a permanent basis in the summer, with the centre-back, who turned 25 earlier this month, certainly going about his quest to land a more significant deal in the right way.

On his renaissance, Venancio added: “As a player, I feel I am improving with this team as we have some fantastic players.

“It was a big challenge for me in the beginning and I have the confidence of my team-mates and the boss now. I will just try to do my best to help my mates and the club.

“It is now positive for me, not for the club (yet), I guess.”

He continued: “I love Sheffield and this club. I will try and do my best, so that, at the end of the season, they sign the option.

“But it is not up to me. I will try to do my best to go for it, but it is their decision.

“Even now, I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the season. But I want to stay, that is my big goal.

“Still now it is a trial as every game is one more opportunity to show my quality as a player.

“I want to show that not just for the boss, but also for the fans and everyone who works with the club.”

A happy player away from the pitch invariably makes for a successful one on it and Venancio’s warmth towards Sheffielders and the place he has called ‘home’ for the past six months is genuine, heartfelt and uplifting.

He added: “In the beginning, I felt the people were so friendly. The city is different to my home town, but I thoroughly enjoy life here.

“Everyone seems so friendly.

“When you come here and see that, it is almost as if you are at home and now I feel at home. That is why I say that I love Sheffield.”