GIVEN the troubled times that Sheffield Wednesday are currently enduring, it takes a certain degree of character to be the one to face the music in front of the assembled press.
Dutch midfielder Joey Pelupessy was entrusted with that responsibility ahead of today’s South Yorkshire derby with Rotherham United and it was one that he handled with the sort of professionalism that suggests that he is just the sort of honest and upstanding pro that every dressing room and football club is built around.
Immaculate in appearance and respectful in his utterances, the 25-year-old is the sort of figure whom many a manager would be happy to see their daughter paired off with.
But politeness and civility will not necessarily win you a fight. Pelupessy may have admirably fronted up on Friday afternoon in the club’s pre-match press conference, but he is intelligent enough to know that getting your hands dirty on the pitch is the only thing that will appease disgruntled Wednesdayites.
It is more about actions and not words. More especially on derby day against a Millers side likely to be high on tenacity and testosterone.
As for as the hosts are concerned, today is an occasion where Wednesday simply must show some inner mongrel and do whatever it takes to secure three points or face potentially grave consequences.
That hardened, cynical edge is exactly the sort of thing that Pelupessy did not display in the Owls’ late draw with high-flying West Brom at the start of October – should Wednesday have won that and their current situation just may have been different.
It was the midfielder’s failure to ‘take one for the team’ in not bringing down West Brom’s Harvey Barnes and landing a caution to stop his mazy run which led to the Baggies’ dramatic leveller.
Should the same situation arise again and it is likely to be a case of ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’. It has to be, as far as Wednesday as concerned.
Pelupessy said: “You have to learn from those situations. We are in a situation now where we have to do anything to win games.
We have to fight and if we show the fans that we fight and give 100 per cent, they are also a little bit satisfied. After, if you have some good results, you can talk about the football or way of playing.Sheffield Wednesday’s Joey Pelupessy
“We have to fight and if we show the fans that we fight and give 100 per cent, they are also a little bit satisfied. After, if you have some good results, you can talk about the football or way of playing. We work very hard and are also disappointed about the results, that’ i clear. We must try to work hard every day to get a good result.
“That is the only thing we can do and we will fight 100 per cent against Rotherham and you have to win the fight first before you can play. The important thing is to get the result and that is what we are fighting for.”
After a run of just one victory in eight matches, the natives are somewhat restless at S6, justifiably so, according to Pelupessy.
A defeat this afternoon after a Millers side who have not won on their travels at this level since April 2016 would see further storm clouds circle around Hillsborough – with the flak aimed towards players and embattled head coach Jos Luhukay likely to be venomous.
Pelupessy fully understands the deep-seated frustration of fans, but equally believes that any suggestions that some Owls players do not care enough is wide of the mark.
He added: “I did not know they (some fans) say that. But if that is true, it is just frustration for the fans. If you play good and win games, they do not talk about these things.
“The only thing I can say is of course we care and of course, it hurts us if we lose. Of course, we are disappointed if we lose as we love football like the fans and want to win every game, have great results and success. We are disappointed like them; it’s like with a job.
“Fans expect a lot and if you are not in good way, they will be disappointed. They want to see nice football and that is why they come to the stadium and every time we play away, you see a lot of fans travelling.
“We as players are really disappointed if we do not get a good result for them as they always support us and I have a lot of respect for that. You want to give them more back.”
Less than two months on from being in the top-six mix, Wednesday are minding the gap between themselves and the relegation positions, with the 16th-placed Owls’ buffer over third-from-bottom Millwall currently being five points.
It is Pelupessy’s belief that it is too early to suggest that Wednesday are embroiled in a relegation scrap, but with a caveat which adds that due care and attention is needed to arrest the slide sooner rather than later.
He said: “In my opinion, we are not in a relegation battle. We are close, but it does not feel like that. Everybody knows if you lose more games, then you are very close, that is the thing.
“I do not think we are at the moment, but we have to realise we are very close and be aware. Good results is the thing.
“One hundred per cent, you feel more safe if you get some good results and if there is a bigger gap, you feel more comfortable and maybe as players, we are more comfortable on the pitch and we can talk more about the tactical things and good football, rather that only just winning. First we have to win.”
A potential battle for survival is certainly far removed from the comparative sunshine and roses of a promotion push in 2015-16 and 2016-17, a time when the expectation levels were raised somewhat at Hillsborough.
Coming to terms with a fresh reality is somewhat sobering with Pelupessy able to speak from experience following his time in Holland with Heracles Almelo – where fans’ perceptions also quickly changed.
Pelupessy added: “With my former club, one time we won the play-offs and we were in sixth place and normally we played for a place between eighth and 12th.
“We had a really good year and next year, we had to play for Europa League qualification. Before, if we were in tenth or 11th place, everyone was fine and it was a good season.
“After that (play-off) season, if we were not sixth or seventh, you had a bad season. I can understand our fans as they want more every time. If you reach the play-offs or a final, they expect a lot and that is normal. That is football.”