WITH the natives at Hillsborough increasingly restless and the head coach under more pressure than at any other time in his reign, a resurgent Leeds United might not be the first pick of everyone at Sheffield Wednesday as the club’s ideal next opponent.
Glenn Loovens, however, believes the timing could not be better after a week that began with a demoralising derby defeat to Steel City rivals United.
“Leeds is a nice opportunity to wipe everything clean,” said the 34-year-old to The Yorkshire Post ahead of tomorrow lunchtime’s televised White Rose clash. “We can start again after a tough week.
We all know what last Sunday meant to everyone. Losing a game like that is never nice. But these things happen in football and you have to bounce back.Sheffield Wednesday’s Glenn Loovens
“We all know what last Sunday meant to everyone. Losing a game like that is never nice. But these things happen in football and you have to bounce back.
“That is the good thing about this league, there is always the next opportunity and the next game right around the corner. For the players and fans, Leeds is a great game and we have to get a great result.”
Loovens, the club’s captain, has seen a lot in a career that began with Dutch club Feyenoord and included a spell in the goldfish bowl existence that can be playing for Celtic.
He is, therefore, able to offer a reasoned analysis of what needs to be done at the end of a week in which head coach Carlos Carvalhal has faced the wrath of supporters over the record-breaking capitulation to the Blades.
“We know we can do better,” said the defender, who could make a timely return to action tomorrow after seven weeks out injured. “It is easy to throw the towel in, but, for me, when things go wrong then that is when you show your character as a team.
“The players are fully behind Carlos, he is our manager. The responsibility is not only his, it is us as players as well.
“Everyone here is together. We need that – the players, the staff and the supporters. This is a moment when we really need each other.
“When we beat Arsenal 3-0 (in the League Cup under Carvalhal two years ago), it was easy for everyone to be happy. But when things get tough, that is when we need to be a unit, all together.
“This is the message to everyone involved with this club – staff, players, supporters. It is better if we all support each other; we will achieve a lot more if we do that.”
After the derby loss, Carvalhal was at pains to shoulder the blame himself rather than the players. It was a stance Loovens appreciated.
He added: “That tells you a lot about Carlos as a person, a manager and is a big reason why we are all behind him. That was very admirable of him. He is very experienced so knows exactly what to do and say.
“As for this week, the manager has been normal. That is also something I like about him; if things go well or badly he is the same. He is a stable factor in this club.
“As I said about Sunday, we heard the manager’s words, but, as players, we do have to look critically at ourselves. We are big men and criticism comes with football.
“It can’t all be positive. If we did, we would all play at Barcelona. There will be negatives and we have to deal with those.”
The frustration of last weekend’s derby humbling was still being felt in midweek at Birmingham City. Wednesday were much improved on the limp display against the Blades, but still lost and the supporters made clear their feelings at the final whistle.
“The supporters pay to watch us play and they are entitled to do whatever they feel,” added the Wednesday captain. “They wanted to express themselves, that is not a problem.
“But I know if we show the qualities we have then we will have them behind us in no time. In my time, the fans have always had our backs. If they boo us one time, we should not make a big deal about it.
“Fans express their feelings and I am pretty sure they will be behind us in the next game. When things get tough, they can help us so much, to get the place going.
“As an experienced player, I can tell you that makes a big difference. This is what we need on Sunday.”
Among the accusations aimed at the Owls this week has been a lack of character, something that Carvalhal memorably answered in his pre-match press briefing ahead of the Birmingham trip with a symbolic battering of a £20 note to symbolise that no permanent damage had been caused by the derby defeat.
On that topic, Loovens added: “If the players are not committed, me as the skipper and Carlos as the manager will be on their cases. For instance, we were 2-0 down in the derby, but we fought back to 2-2. That, to me, says there is fighting spirit here.
“Okay, what happened in the end happened. But we fought back. If we were not committed, we would have thrown the towel in at 2-0.”
As for the challenge of turning around the malaise that has descended on Hillsborough this week, the Owls’ captain said: “If the players or coaching staff did not believe we can turn this around, we would be the first people to tell you this. But it is not the case and we are looking forward to Sunday.
“It is always tough against Leeds. They are doing well at the moment and that makes it another test for us. But I am pretty sure we will be up for it.
“We don’t just owe the manager a performance but ourselves and the fans. We want to do ourselves proud as well. I know these players and, believe me, we will be up for it.”