THE memories may be a little hazy but the correlations are unlikely to be lost upon Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce.
The north-easterner’s first promotion at Birmingham City arrived after joining the Blues in mid-season in 2001-02, with the club propelling themselves from outside of the play-offs into the end-of-season lottery and famously lasting the course and triumphing on penalties in the final against Norwich City at the Millennium Stadium.
We are really close as we were the youngest ones breaking through the group at Newcastle.Steve Bruce
Now working in Sheffield, the city famous for its seven hills, Bruce has several steep gradients to climb if Wednesday are to finish this season in the top six.
It is a stiff task, but neither is it insurmountable, with a 10-game unbeaten run having given the Owls a ‘squeak’ of hope.
In the week when the Cheltenham Festival has taken centre stage on the sporting front, Bruce is minded to appreciate that long shots sometimes come in.
Even if the horse-racing fan has not had too much luck on that front this week.
Recalling that first promotion at St Andrew’s, Bruce – promoted four times to the Premier League as a manager – said: “It was a long time ago in 2001. (But) There is always someone who comes in on a good run.
“At the minute, we have lost one in 15, but we still have nine games to go.”
On the Owls’ current position 0f 11th – four points adrift of sixth-placed Derby County – the Geordie, whose side welcome Blackburn today, added: “It is a damn sight better than it was a month ago. We have made a climb towards it. We have put ourselves in with a chance.
“Everybody likes a long shot. There is nothing like a long shot winning – I have tried to have a few of them at Cheltenham this week but it is not going very well.
“Who knows, it might be a bit late, but we have given ourselves a squeak. Can we go and win six out of the next eight? That would put the cat amongst the pigeons.
“We have to enjoy it. We are all in it to enjoy it. There is too much rubbish that goes on, so you have to enjoy it when the good times are here. That has always been my philosophy if there is a philosophy. We have to enjoy the challenge.”
The immediate challenge sees Wednesday host a Blackburn side who beat them 4-2 on a rancourous afternoon in Lancashire on December 1, when Owls fans called for the dismissal of Jos Luhukay.
Then, the Owls were just five points above the drop zone and six points adrift of Rovers, who trail them by the same margin after a 10-point swing.
Wednesday will be seeking redemption for that dark episode at Ewood Park and loan winger Rolando Aarons admits to possessing his own motivations to do well at the expense of a good friend.
Aarons locks horns with Newcastle United team-mate Adam Armstrong and friendships will be put aside today as the wingman aims to maintain the Owls’ upturn under Bruce – and claim something akin to bragging rights.
Jamaica-born Aarons, who scored his maiden goal for the Owls at the University of Bolton Stadium in midweek, said: “I came through with him at Newcastle and when I signed for Sheffield Wednesday we spoke about this (game).
“He thinks he is going to leave one on me!
“I said: ‘make sure you are wearing your shinpads’. We are really close as we were the youngest ones breaking through the group at Newcastle.”
Aarons, who has caught the eye with his verve and pace during his vibrant time at Hillsborough, may head into the game in a good place after his strike in the 2-0 victory at Bolton, but do not let it be said he is wholly satisfied.
Professing to being his own harshest critic, he added: “There is a lot more to come from me. I know what I am capable of doing and have shown glimpses of it. In the Bolton game, I do not think I played as well as people think.
“I scored a goal and created a few chances but was not extremely happy with some of my end product and it is something I will be working on.
“I have a (personal) team around me, and if I do not think I played good, I do not care if they think I played good.
“I want to feel satisfied with myself.”