Sheffield Wednesday core provide continuity in remarkable transformation, now for something really uncharacteristic...

Some of it was reassuringly familiar; in other ways, it was disarmingly different.

Danny Rohl transformed Sheffield Wednesday from relegation no-hopers to one of the Championship's best sides in 35 league games – 34 of them before his 35th birthday.

Ipswich Town's Kieran McKenna has been outstanding this season but his skill was riding a wave he set in motion when the Tractor Boys and Owls were in League One. Rohl has turned a tide that looked like a tsunami after three points from 11 games, then five losses in his first six.

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But who provided the goals which secured Saturday's 2-0 win at Sunderland and an escape which, if predicted in November would have brought a blue-and-white-striped straitjacket?

Admittedly Pol Valentin, in his debut season, was influential in both but it was long-serving captain Barry Bannan who passed his pull-back first time to Liam Palmer – the quiet, play-anywhere veteran of 435 Owls games most managers start off underestimating and soon rely on.

It was only his third goal since equalising in 2023’s Miracle of Hillsborough, but a second in four games.

Then came Big Game Charlie, Josh Windass, whose diving header with nearly the last touch of last May's play-off final set this narrative up. He finished with the calmness of a man scoring for the third huge – and won – match on the trot.

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LEADER: Barry Bannan is front and centre of Sheffield Wednesday's post-match celebrationsLEADER: Barry Bannan is front and centre of Sheffield Wednesday's post-match celebrations
LEADER: Barry Bannan is front and centre of Sheffield Wednesday's post-match celebrations

Then something very un-Wednesday happened. They strolled it.

You might question that if you just saw the clips of Sunderland's chances but everyone in the Stadium of Light knew the Owls would do it even if those in the dugout and high in the away end could not even admit it to themselves.

Luke O'Nien had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside shortly before Palmer's 29th-minute opener, Jack Clarke curled a shot against a post before Windass' 38th-minute strike.

Patrick Roberts ballooned an excellent chance just before half-time, Adil Aouchiche flicked a header wide in a second half when he and Clarke forced James Beadle saves.

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BIG GAME CHARLIE: Josh Windass delivered once moreBIG GAME CHARLIE: Josh Windass delivered once more
BIG GAME CHARLIE: Josh Windass delivered once more

No one was fooled. The home crowd kept booing and the away fans chanting "We are staying up."

Because they were. Despite more or less opting out of attacking in the second half knowing all they needed to do was not concede three.

Just to be sure they brought on Callum Paterson – another of the core and one who makes Palmer look stuck in his positional ways – as the chasers got into position for a collapse that was never coming.

And things petered out from there, the pointless prelude to post-match dad-dancing in front of supporters way out of reach yet still feeling part of something remarkable.

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MAGIC MOMENT: Liam Palmer opens the scoring for Sheffield WednesdayMAGIC MOMENT: Liam Palmer opens the scoring for Sheffield Wednesday
MAGIC MOMENT: Liam Palmer opens the scoring for Sheffield Wednesday

It was Rohl's name they sang loudest and most often, as usual.

Now the Owls have to do something very uncharacteristic and follow success with good decisions.

These players have made their names with footballing escapology in the last 12 months but for once they need to set the way.

"I don't really want to celebrate not staying in this league but nobody's too good to celebrate these situations," said Bannan. "It's an amazing turnaround."

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Chairman Dejphon Chansiri got extremely lucky this season. Had he not preferred Xisco Munoz to Rohl in the summer, he would be planning for the play-offs now. Had he taken a week longer realising his mistake, it would probably be the Owls, not Birmingham City, contemplating a 50-point relegation.

He cannot push his luck by shirking from giving his manager every available tool to build a Danny Rohl team, not this knocked-off imitation. Having felt let down in the mid-season transfer window, we can only hope Rohl’s mind is still open.

He is clearly in love with the club but was in no mood to pledge his allegiance when the door was repeatedly opened to it in the post-match interviews he appeared to have have swum the River Carlsberg to get to.

If offering him the earth does not cut it, chuck in the moon too.

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Bannan, Palmer and Windass are amongst 18 players not contracted to be back next season, although the smirk on Bannan's face when asked about his future afterwards suggests he is not one to worry about.

A once-in-a-generation talent offers a chance to finally alter the course of a big football club stumbling in the dark for nearly a quarter of a century.

Rohl-led change is the answer. Just not too much change.

Sunderland: Bishop; Hume, Ballard, O'Nien, Alese (Hemir 80); Ekwah (Ba 71), Styles (Evans HT); Roberts (Rigg HT), Bellingham, Clarke (Watson 86); Aouchiche.

Unused substitutes: Patterson, Pembele, Mundle, Dack.

Sheffield Wednesday: Beadle; Iorfa, Bernard, Palmer (Ihiekwe 90); Valentín (B Diaby 64), Vaulks, Bannan, Johnson; Windass (Paterson 64), Ugbo (Smith 76), Musaba (Gassama 76).

Unused substitutes: Dawson, Famewo, Cadamarteri, M Diaby.

Referee: G Ward (Surrey).

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