Sheffield Wednesday v Nottingham Forest: Owls fans hailed by Barry Bannan

IT is on walks around the parks of Sheffield with his baby daughter Elsie which reinforce to Sheffield Wednesday captain Barry Bannan why this club – his club – is made for him.

Given the Owls’ descent in the past year or so, you may think that engaging with some supporters could be hazardous.

Wednesday have been in strife all season and Bannan is the leader and public face in many respects, after all.

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Refreshingly, in an era when fans’ intolerance of bad times and results gets personal and is often manifested by way of abuse – especially prescient this weekend with football clubs and players having joined a four-day social media boycott to combat abuse and discrimination – Bannan’s story provides some hope.

Battling on: Barry Bannan. Picture: Steve Ellis

Ahead of a day which could confirm the Owls’ relegation, Bannan told The Yorkshire Post: “I have moved up recently in the last year or so (from his previous home in Birmingham).

“Obviously with Covid, I have not really been going out and have (just) been going to the parks with my daughter and even through the tough times, I have had nothing but good people coming up to me and saying: ‘Keep going, we are with you.’

“As much as they highlight the bad stuff about social media, I can only say that since I have been out and about, I have never had one bad publicity (comment) to me and they have all been very, very nice to me.

“They have been saying: ‘Keep going. Even if you are relegated, we will all be behind you even more.’ That side of it is really good. They are great people and have got a passion and will to win.”

Backed: Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore.

Winning is something that Wednesday have simply not done enough of this season. It is why their fates are on a knife-edge this afternoon.

If they lose to Nottingham Forest they will be relegated to the third tier for the third time since 2000. Even if the Owls win, they will go down if Derby County triumph at Swansea City.

For someone who has made his home in Sheffield, that would represent a grievous wound to Bannan, whose winning mentality was forged during his formative years in Scotland with Lenzie Youth Club, whose alumni includes himself and his one-time Blackpool team-mate and fellow Scottish international Stephen Crainey, who had a spell in Yorkshire with Leeds United.

A Celtic fan whose idols were Stiliyan Petrov and Henrik Larsson when he was growing up in Coatbridge, Bannan has swapped the green and white for the blue and white.

Wednesday are now his club and in his words, they will ‘be with me until the day I die.’

As someone from a working-class background in North Lanarkshire – his dad James is a painter and decorator – the 31-year-old is someone who relates to the everyday values of Sheffielders.

Bannan is also now emotionally attached to one of its two great football clubs and always will be.

It helps to explain why, should the Owls go down, he will not bail out and wants to stay. He has another year on his contract left.

Bannan continued: “One hundred per cent, when I am grey and old, that will be the first result I look for, no matter what.

“There is nothing that is going to change that. I have been here six years now and have enjoyed every minute of it.

“I am a winner and want to win games. It does not really matter what happens – money or anything – I came into football to win.

“When I was younger, I used to get awards at Under-10s levels and come back, drop them and go back out and play. I just love winning football games and that is the passion I have got for this city and the fanbase as well.

“That is why we have probably got on so well; we have got the same mentality and everybody from this city is hard-working and wants to win and that is what was installed in me from a young age.

“That is why it has been a good match really and the club will be with me until the day I die.”

Wednesday have not been winning enough, but one day they will again, hopefully with Bannan, the club’s own ‘little big man’, still around on the pitch.

Should their Championship status be taken away, the Scot still spies genuine hope under Darren Moore and his team.

They will not be blamed if the Owls go down and their reputation remains intact. Most Wednesdayites crave some stability and want the managerial team to stay. Bannan is no different.

He added: “Putting myself aside, I think that whatever happens this season, if the people who are in charge are (here) next season, I think there is only going to be a positive season no matter what division we are in.

“What I have seen in the last few months with this management (team) and how hard they work and how hard they want to improve every single player – and not just the starting 11 – they have got the same mentality and still speak to everybody the same and try and improve everyone from the young kids joining in training sessions up to the established players.

“They treat me exactly the same as they would a young boy, which is the way it should be. For the club going forward, the appointment of this management team and staff he has brought in will be a top, top appointment and there can only be good times ahead after this season.”

Hopefully, that will still be in the Championship.

“I don’t want to be relegated as captain of this club on my CV,” Bannan is the first to admit.

“It has been a tough season and if we can stay up, the players deserve a lot of credit as it has been really hard. We had a (points) deduction and with the amount of managers we have had, we deserve a lot of credit.”

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