Glenn Loovens is relieved finally to have something tangible to play for as Sheffield Wednesday bring the Hillsborough curtain down on their Championship season today.
In his first campaign at the club, the 32-year-old was involved in a relegation battle to stay in the Championship.
Last season, under Stuart Gray, the Owls finished in mid-table as they fizzled out.
But with two games remaining this campaign, Wednesday go into today’s visit from Cardiff City locked in the middle of a promotion race.
Loovens and his team-mates know just a point today will secure sixth spot in the Championship and that much-coveted final play-off place.
The fact they are battling a Cardiff City side with whom Loovens spent three years – including an FA Cup final appearance – for that final play-off spot just adds a bit of spice.
“It’s very good to have something to play for,” said the Dutch defender.
“My first year here we were fighting relegation and my second we were playing for nothing over the last few games.
“It feels good to try to achieve something in the last few games. It keeps you sharp, it keeps you on your toes and, hopefully, we’ll take it into the Cardiff game.
“I had some great years over there but I’m a Sheffield Wednesday player now.
“The past is in the past and I’m looking in the future with this club.
“If that means scoring a last- minute winner, I will do it for sure.
“My focus is on Wednesday but I do follow all my old teams. I left there on a good note. I do follow them, but not on Saturday.
“I’m not here to talk about Cardiff. I’m here to talk about Sheffield Wednesday and to make sure we get in those play-offs.”
Loovens has seen plenty of change at Hillsborough since Dave Jones brought him to South Yorkshire, after spells with Celtic and, in Spain, with Real Zaragoza.
He is on his third manager and second chairman, after Dejphon Chansiri bought the club from Milan Mandaric, and Loovens has witnessed the club’s transformation.
He said: “A lot has changed. If you see where we were three years ago – fighting relegation, different chairman, different dressing room, different staff.
“Everything has changed for the better so, hopefully, we can continue with that and take this club where it belongs.
“We are feeling confident. We have had a good week of training behind us. I think everyone is looking forward to it.
“Nothing has been different. The boys are really up for it and really relaxed off the pitch. I haven’t seen any difference going into this game.”
After four successive wins, Wednesday have not won in their last four outings.
But they put in impressive displays in draws against Ipswich Town, MK Dons and Derby County to enable them to go into today’s in good spirits.
Loovens admits they have been frustrated at not being able to clinch their play-off spot.
But with a four-point gap over seventh-place Cardiff, with two games remaining, the Owls are still favourites to bag a top-six finish.
“The results have not really been there lately,” he said. “But the way we’ve played, it’s worked so we can take a lot of positives from that and take it into the Cardiff game and make sure we take it over the line.
“We prepare like any other game. We go in to get the three points. If it plays out not to be the win, we make sure not to lose.
“We have a big crowd behind us. We have to give these people something to cheer about. We just go into this game to win.
“The more support the better for us.
“It is a home game so I’m sure they will cheer us on when we need it. I expect a very good game (against Cardiff) because it’s two teams who need the points.
“There’s a bit of extra pressure on this game, but we have to treat it like a normal game and make sure we do the basics well.
“They will want to win and I expect a very good game. I’ve heard it is nearly a sell-out so I expect a great atmosphere.”
One sub-plot today will be how the officials deal with striker Fernando Forestieri.
Last week at Derby the Argentinian was once again on the receiving end of a harsh yellow card, and has twice been sent off controversially this season for diving.
Loovens believes his team-mate needs more protection from referees, and admits the striker can be a nuisance for defenders, even in training.
“He is a handful,” admitted Loovens. “I sometimes have to pull one or two tackles out in training. He is a very good player. People who can’t stop him, one thing to do is be physical towards him.
“Sometimes the referee needs to protect him a bit. He is a player who doesn’t shy away from it, which doesn’t really help him either.
“Overall I’m pleased with his performance so far. He shouldn’t do anything else in my opinion.
“I think that’s why the manager went for him.
“He likes these type of players that have something extra on the ball, but do their defensive duties when needed.
‘He’s a prime example. He works hard for the team and when needed he has a bit of extra magic for the team.”
Wednesday fans have snapped up all the tickets in the three home stands, meaning it will be a sell-out in three-quarters of the stadium. Cardiff fans are seated in the upper West Stand, and the Owls will not open up the lower section at Leppings Lane due to potential segregation problems with the visiting support from Wales.