Sheffield Wednesday: Owls are braced for final push towards play-offs

Sheffield Wednesday have had a month of calm before the storm and George Byers says they have been putting it to good use ready to do their amazing away support justice at Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday.

Byers says it would mean the world to him to help the Owls back into the Championship 12 months after relegation.

Having crammed 13 games into exactly two months after a Covid-19-enforced lay-off, Wednesday are in their fourth and final week without a midweek match.

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It is an important time to rest and recharge the batteries, something 25-year-old midfielder Byers has got better at since having children, but it also allows manager Darren Moore to do some important work on the fundamentals, rather than simply focusing on the next opponent as he largely had to do earlier in the year.

Happy Owls scorers George Byers and Jack Hunt. Picture: Steve Ellis

They will need it because on Saturday his team play the side joint top of the League One form table, one of three away matches and two at home to nail down their place in the play-offs.

Rivals Sunderland and Wycombe Wanderers could ramp the pressure up by dropping them from fifth to seventh with Good Friday wins at home to Shrewsbury Town and Plymouth Argyle respectively.

“With Saturday-Saturday games it gives us a chance to work on things during the week,” argues Byers, a summer signing from Swansea City, whose regular run in the side after an injury-hit first half of the campaign has been a big factor in their challenging for the play-offs.

“When we’re playing in midweek we don’t do too much training, it’s more tactical-based and little pointers and bits and pieces. It’s a quick turnaround and you don’t really get much time to prepare.

Owls midfielder George Byers. Picture: Steve Ellis

“When it’s Saturday-Saturday we have a lot more time to work on the things we need to and it helps us recover a lot more between the games.”

Recovering from games is important too, and freshness will be vital with the final five matches of the regular season crammed into 14 days quickly followed, they hope, by a two-legged play-off semi-final and a Wembley final.

Byers admits unwinding is something he has got better at, even if he is still as obsessed with football as ever.

“I like to relax with my family and just be away from it when I’m not at the training ground,” he says.

“I’m a person that loves football, I’m always watching football but there’s also a time to switch off from it and I’ve got a little one and another one on the way so that keeps me busy.

“It’s always good to take a step back from it when you’re not training or playing and just refreshing your mind so you’re fully focused when you come into work.

“I’m 25 but when I was a bit younger all I was thinking about was football.

“I still am now but you find different ways to switch off when I need to.

“That comes with experience but even when I do switch off I’m always watching football, it’s always on the telly.

“I love the game so I watch it as much as I can and I try to learn little pointers from different games and use it at mine.”

The Owls had 5,000 away fans at Bolton Wanderers last weekend and can expect a similar following for their first trip to Stadium MK in seven years.

Unfortunately their form has not matched their support, with two draws and a defeat from their last three away games. Nine League One teams have better records on their travels this season, in contrast to their imperious Hillsborough form.

“There’s a massive responsibility when the crowds turn up in their numbers,” says Byers. “Our away form’s not been too great this season so when the fans do turn out it’s important we try and do our best to win the games for them.

“(Winning promotion) would mean the world to me. I can see the joy it brings to the fans every week winning games and that’s a big drive to me – trying to get this club back to where it belongs, which is not this division.

“The fans deserve more and we’ve got that responsibility to bring it to them.

“They turn up in their thousands and drive us on every week, it’s ridiculous the away support (we get). We can’t thank them enough, really.

“Every away ground is always a tough test and everyone wants to beat us.

“It’s kind of like everyone’s cup final when we come into town. That’s a challenge in itself.

“There’s always an excitement with every game we play. We’re not looking too far ahead but we do know it’s the business end of the season.

“Some people don’t get 5,000 for home games so for us to get 5,000 at Bolton was unbelievable.

“But we know what we need to do to try and get the three points.”

The Owls complete their Easter programme with a match at home to already-relegated Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday.