Barry Bannan has thanked Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal for dropping him.
The Scotland international has been ‘untouchable’ in his midfield role since joining the Owls from Crystal Palace 14 months ago.
The 26-year-old was instrumental in taking Wednesday to the play-off final last season and along with midfield partner Kieran Lee and defender Tom Lees, grew accustomed to playing 90 minutes every game.
But after last month’s international double-header – as Scotland played Lithuania and Slovakia inside three days – Bannan returned to Hillsborough feeling jaded.
It resulted in a below-par display at Huddersfield Town, and the unusual sight of Bannan being substituted just after half-time.
He was then dropped completely for the midweek trip to Cardiff City, and the rest obviously was needed.
For Bannan has looked like the talisman of last season in his subsequent two outings and will be one of the first names on Carvalhal’s team sheet today for the visit of Ipswich Town.
“I felt tired in the Huddersfield game but I didn’t know if I needed a rest,” admitted Bannan. “I have played a lot of games since coming here. It has been like a rollercoaster. It has been non-stop. I have played and started nearly all the games.
“It was probably great management from the manager as since I’ve been back I have felt a lot better and my performances have certainly been better. Kieran (Lee) and I play a lot of the 90 minutes and it does take a lot out of you in that position.
“I have been playing international games as well so it was a tough, tough two weeks for me. I felt a lot and so did Kieran.
“It is demanding but you want to be out there playing every game so you can’t complain. The more 90 minutes you play, the better it is for you.”
On Bannan’s return, the Owls beat QPR but slumped to a 2-0 loss at Derby County seven days ago, despite dominating possession.
“It was probably the best performance we have put in this season without finishing our play,” said Bannan. “We dominated and Derby were taken aback by it and tried to hit us on the counter attack. They tried to press but it didn’t work for them as they couldn’t get the ball.
“I think performance wise it was one of the best games I have played in for this club this season.
“It is about trying to finish our chances.
“We should have had a penalty and they should have been down to 10 men. Whether we had scored the penalty or not, it doesn’t matter.
“The way the game was going, that would have been a big turning point. It was a big moment in the match but we can’t complain about that. There was still another 85 minutes in the match and we didn’t do enough in the end.”
The aim for Wednesday this season is automatic promotion, after failing in the play-offs last year, but they currently sit eighth in the table.
Bannan believes his side are “one of the best teams in the league” but accepts they need to start improving their results.
He said: “We want to get promoted. You shouldn’t be playing football if you don’t want to get promoted.
“For whatever reason, we are sitting eighth at the minute but we are right in the mix with all the other teams.
“We are right in there and we know we are good enough to be at the top of the league. It is just a case of getting back on track and putting a run of results together.
“I think a few weeks ago we put a run of something like five wins from seven games together so if we can do that again it will be interesting to see where we are come Christmas time.
“I think we are one of the best teams in the league. It doesn’t matter what you think, it’s about going out there and doing it.
“Come the end of the season, we should be there or thereabouts.”
A lack of goals have hindered the Owls this term – just 16 in 15 outings – but Bannan is backing his Scotland team-mate Steven Fletcher to come good.
The former Sunderland striker has netted three goals for the Owls since joining in the summer, but has been hampered by injuries. Injury meant his debut against Aston Villa lasted just 27 minutes, and he was a substitute at Derby last week, but was on the pitch for just 16 minutes, before going off with another head injury.
But he has trained all week and should be available for today’s game at Hillsborough.
“He’s all right,” said Bannan. “I think this was just a little scratch compared to the last few he’s had! I think he’s had about 18 stitches over the season.
“I have told him to stop heading the ball or I think he’s going to get more. He’s a tough lad and is always going to get things like that with the way he plays. He puts his head in where it hurts and it is good to see.
“He’s a massive part of the team and obviously he has been brilliant for us this season.
“He would probably have liked to have scored more goals but injuries and stuff have happened at the wrong time when he has been on a good run.
“I think he will come back stronger from this and I have no doubt that he will score the goals that we need to get up the league.”
Owls boss Carvalhal expects a tough game today against Mick McCarthy’s side.
“Ipswich will be a very hard game, a typical English team,” he said. “We know the coach very well, he has had a long career playing in that style.
“That style creates problems for many teams, they play compact and we don’t expect an easy game.”