Sheffield Wednesday captain Tom Lees believes victory in tonight’s Steel City derby can wipe away the “doom and gloom” surrounding Hillsborough.
The Owls go to Bramall Lane tonight on the back of a humiliating 4-0 home loss to Norwich City, which stretched their losing run to four games.
From being in the top six last month, Wednesday are now just four points above the relegation zone.
But Owls captain Lees insists they want to shatter the negativity, which has “snowballed” over the last month, by beating city rivals United tonight.
“We owe the fans, but we owe it to ourselves too,” said Lees. “We are not happy with the results we have been having. Regardless whether it was Sheffield United or someone else.
We don’t accept losing, we don’t accept going on a poor run, we are not happy about it. But we can’t allow it to build into something where everything collapses.Tom Lees
“I think it’s important in our dressing room, our team, when you have these results, you might lose a game, but then you must win the next game or two, or draw.
“You can’t let it snowball like we have done. But we have lost four (successive) games out of a 46-match season. We can’t let the negativity – the doom and gloom – build up.
“We don’t accept losing, we don’t accept going on a poor run, we are not happy about it.
“But we can’t allow it to build into something where everything collapses.
“I think we have got strong enough players, and I am not willing to let that happen where we go under after a few losses. We have big enough characters to stand up and deal with it, that’s what we have to start doing.”
History shows victory in the Sheffield derby can have a huge influence on the footballing fortunes of the city.
Two out of the last three derbies have set the tone for the coming months.
In 2012, like tonight, Wednesday went into the derby on a four-game losing streak.
But Chris O’Grady’s winner at Hillsborough started a 14-game unbeaten run which saw the Owls pip the Blades for promotion from League One.
Then last season, Wednesday –on a seven-game unbeaten league run – slumped to a 4-2 home defeat, a result which sent their season into a tailspin. They won just four of their next 17 games a sequence of results which culminated in the departure of head coach Carlos Carvalhal.
In contrast, the Blades put together seven wins in nine outings to claim top spot in the Championship.
Lees was in the Owls team which lost at Hillsborough – he missed January’s 0-0 draw at Bramall Lane – and knows the importance of tonight’s game.
“It was an amazing atmosphere, just incredible,” the 27-year-old recalled. “One of the best atmospheres I have played in. It was so passionate and that is something we are not under-estimating.
“All that matters is how we play on Friday, but we know what it can do going forward. A good result is something that we need.
“It can work both ways. That’s why its important we go out there and get a good result. I am sure they are thinking exactly the same, with the run they went on after Hillsborough. It will give one half of the city a big boost.”
Take promotion and relegation off the table, and most Sheffield football fans would measure how successful a season is based on the derby results.
“The derby is a heated affair, there’s no escaping that,” said the former Leeds United defender. “I am not going to play it down, how big an occasion it is, because it’s massive.
“We are aware of what it means, the boys have spoke about it on our own the other day. We spoke about the importance of it, what it can do going forward.
“Obviously we would like to be going into it in a good run of form. But these games are one-offs. It doesn’t matter about form, the players you have, it’s almost like a final, anything can happen.
“We have just got to approach it as the biggest game of our season, so far.
“We are desperate for a win without it being a derby, but we have that added on top now.
“There’s no short-cuts, no magic pill you can take, we just have to work hard, determination and have the right attitude.”
Venue: Bramall Lane.
Coverage: Sky Sports.
Team news: Sheffield Wednesday could include forwards Fernando Forestieri and Marco Matias after the pair returned to training after injury. But Keiren Westwood, David Jones, Gary Hooper, Kieran Lee and Sam Winnall are all sidelined due to injury. Sheffield United have no injury problems, meaning a recall for Mark Duffy.
Last six games: United WWLDWL; Wednesday DWLLLL.
Referee: A Madley (W Yorkshire).
Last time: Sheffield United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0; January 12 2018; Championship.