Rolando Aarons is relishing his first taste of a Steel City derby in the “crazy” Championship.
The pacy winger – who only arrived at Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Newcastle United last month – has made a swift impression at Hillsborough, helping to extend their unbeaten run to seven games.
Back-to-back victories over Swansea City and Brentford have nudged the Owls to just six points adrift of the play-offs – with 12 games remaining – and raised the unlikely prospect of gatecrashing the top six.
Next, though, for Wednesday is the televised visit of in-form neighbours Sheffield United on Monday evening.
And Aarons, 23, is eager to get his first taste of a Sheffield derby.
“I love derbies,” he said. “Every time at Newcastle I was injured so I never got to play in the Tyneside derbies.
“I am expecting a hostile atmosphere from them (Blades), but expecting our fans to push us to win. I can’t wait. I am buzzing.
“I didn’t realise it was such a big club before I came. The fans have been great, encouraging the team, and the players have responded to that.
“I saw them (United) against West Brom, they are a decent team, but so are we.
“Derbies are one-off games and anyone can beat anyone. You just have to work harder than the other team.
We are shooting up the table and are only six points off the play-offs. That’s crazy compared to just a few weeks ago, but we will just keep going.Rolando Arrons
“There is an element of luck involved, but you just have to fight for everything.”
Wednesday’s unbeaten run – they last lost in the league on January 12 at Hull City – has coincided with the arrival of new manager Steve Bruce.
The former Hull and Aston Villa boss has helped turn a team who had the worst defence in the Championship – and sliding towards a relegation battle – into one of the in-form sides in the division. Seven clean sheets in 10 games has given Bruce a base to build on, and the addition of Aarons – who brings energy and pace in attack – has helped sharpen up the Owls going forward.
“It’s vital we keep this run going,” said Aarons.
“In the Championship anything can change with the run of games. We are seeing that now.
“We are shooting up the table and are only six points off the play-offs. That’s crazy compared to just a few weeks ago, but we will just keep going.
“We are just taking it one game at a time, picking up points. We haven’t lost in a while now, and want to keep that going.
“I don’t know what’s changed. I have just picked up from what the boys have been doing. The manager has told us what he expects from us, the minimum is to work our socks off, and we are doing that. With the quality in the team we are winning games as well.”
Aarons joined Newcastle as a teenager in 2012, but has only started a handful of games for the Premier League club.
But the 23-year-old has already bagged goals against Manchester City, Crystal Palace and Tottenham, and came close to opening his Owls account on Tuesday.
He used his pace to race clear of the Brentford defence, only for the boot of visiting goalkeeper Daniel Bentley to deflect his shot wide.
“I thought we played very well, it was a good team performance (against Brentford),” said Aarons, who spent time on loan with Italian side Verona and Slovan Liberec in the Czech Rebublic in 2018.
“We worked hard and in the end we deserved the win. We had our chances, me included, I should have scored, I am annoyed at myself.
“I think it came off the keeper’s foot. It was a decent save but I should be scoring there. I am frustrated, and when I watch it back, it will be rattling around in my brain. Next time I will score.
“Everyone worked hard and the fans appreciated it.
“I had to be patient for the first few games, the gaffer was telling me just to keep going. Now I have got two starts on the bounce and looking forward to the next game. Hopefully I can start again, I am buzzing.
“I am picking up match fitness, and only going to get better and better, and be able to show people what I can do.”
Another to benefit from the arrival of Aarons, is striker Steven Fletcher. Starved of service for most of the campaign, Bruce’s decision to provide decent width – and a constant supply of crosses – through Aarons and Adam Reach, has seen Fletcher net three goals in his last two games.
He netted with an overhead kick against Swansea, before racing clear to fire home against Brentford, swiftly followed with a back-post header. The quality – and variety – has impressed Aarons. “Fletcher is a baller,” he smiled. “He does all you want from your No 9.”
Owls left-back Achraf Lazaar looks set to miss Monday’s game after picking up a hamstring injury on Tuesday night.