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Sheffield Wednesday v Hull City: Owls defence speaking the same language in quest for clean sheets

Thou shalt not pass: Glenn Loovens, right, stands firm against Milwall's Lee Gregory in a rare Wednesday win of late. (Picture: Steve Ellis)
Thou shalt not pass: Glenn Loovens, right, stands firm against Milwall's Lee Gregory in a rare Wednesday win of late. (Picture: Steve Ellis)
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Sheffield Wednesday will go ‘double Dutch’ today but don’t expect to hear defensive duo Glenn Loovens and Joost van Aken speaking in their native Netherlands language.

For while the two centre-halves both hail from across the North Sea, Owls captain Loovens insists they will only communicate in English on the pitch.

That is not a problem for the experienced Loovens – the 34-year-old first came to play in the UK back in 2005 – but van Aken, 23, is a rookie, and has played just nine games since arriving from Heerenveen in August.

“We communicate in English,” Loovens told The Yorkshire Post, ahead of today’s Yorkshire derby with Hull City. “Also, I’m not going to be there forever.

“It’s good for him that he understands the terms they use in England.

“Plus, I have played most of my career in England. I’m becoming more English than Dutch in that sense!”

Owls' Joost van Aken (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Owls' Joost van Aken (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Loovens has spent the majority of his career playing overseas, first at Cardiff City, then Celtic in Scotland before a season at Real Zaragoza in Spain.

The former Dutch international arrived at Hillsborough in 2013 and has been one of the Owls’ most consistent performers over the years, alongside Tom Lees, in the centre of Wednesday’s defence.

But with Lees ruled out today due to a groin injury, Loovens and van Aken will continue their partnership, which brought a clean sheet last weekend in their first outing at Reading.

Wednesday have struggled to field a settled defence all season, due to injuries and suspension.

I was probably at a similar age when I made the move, maybe a bit younger than him, so I know what he’s going through. Not only on the football side but also the personal side. You’re abroad alone, no family. It takes a bit of time to get adapted.

Glenn Loovens on Joost van Aken

“It has been tough for me personally this season,” said Loovens. “I’ve had two injuries in a row. They always break things up, especially in defence where you need that understanding with each other to get the best out of each other.

“In that way, maybe it has been hard for us this season.

“Tom is out now. It’s an opportunity for other people to step up and show what they can do for the team.

“He (van Aken) looked more confident and calm in the last game. He’s very good on the ball and it takes time to adapt. I think he’s done that and I think he is ready to push on now.”

Moving to a new country, with van Aken being thrust into the hustle and bustle of the English game, is something which Loovens has experience of.

The 23-year-old has already shown he is comfortable on the ball, has good passing skills, but needs work on his defensive skills to prosper in the English game.

“There is a period of adjustment,” said Loovens. “I was probably at a similar age when I made the move, maybe a bit younger than him, so I know what he’s going through.

“Not only on the football side but also the personal side. You’re abroad alone, no family. It takes a bit of time to get adapted.

“But he’s a bright kid and a good footballer so those are the attributes you need to make it successful. He’s steady enough in his head to make it work. I think for him it’s time to push on now.

“He’s a good player on the ball. He needs a bit of coaching sometimes defensively but he’s still young and learning and I can see the progress he’s making every week.

“I think he will be a player people are going to enjoy here a lot.”

Despite a six-game unbeaten run, the 11th-placed Owls have dropped points with four draws, and have fallen off the promotion pace.

A glance at the Championship table offers a quick answer. Defensively solid, in the top six when it comes to goals conceded, Wednesday have scored only 23 goals, which is fewer than Sunderland.

Officially, just five shots on target in the month of November, in 360 minutes of football, means Wednesday have been working hard on the training ground this week.

“We know we have to do more when we have the ball,” said Loovens. “The main focus was to make sure that we were a hard team to beat and now we have to do a bit more to make sure we start winning games, starting this Saturday.

“The boys have been working hard in training and it’s a good opportunity for us.

“We are looking good and we know in ourselves we need to do a bit more possession-wise and in the final third but we are working hard on it.

“We know we came through a rough spell and we had to make sure we were a bit more solid and we achieved that and from here we can push on.

“We had to make sure we stopped losing games and give ourselves the opportunity to win games which we can start doing now.

“We have not played the football that we can do but we are still not that far behind.

“When it starts rolling, I think we can really push on and look for those play-off spots.”

If the Owls are to keep in touch with the promotion race – they are 14 points off the top two, six off the play-offs – then December, which features six games, is a key month.

“It’s important we get things going,” said Loovens.

“We are six games unbeaten but we have to push on.

“There are a lot of games coming up in December so it’s important we don’t get too far behind and make sure we close the gap on the teams above us.”

Wednesday today face Hull for the first time since the Tigers won the Championship play-off final between the two teams at Wembley 18 months ago.

Since then, Hull have had several managers, and lost their place in the Premier League.

In contrast Wednesday have had far more stability, keeping faith in Carvalhal, but failing again in the play-offs last season.

Loovens was on the losing side at Wembley back in 2016, but insists that will have no bearing on today.

“It has been nearly two years now,” recalled Loovens. “Their team is totally different and we have made a few changes. It will be a different game.

“We want to win it, not just because they beat us in the final. It’s just another game that we have to make sure we win to start the month well.

“It is never easy when you come down to get going again. We have seen other teams going through the same patches, but they are still a good team.”