Sheffield Wednesday v Shrewsbury Town: ‘It feels like a huge milestone’ admits Darren Moore

Sheffield Wednesday versus Shrewsbury Town this afternoon is a milestone game for Darren Moore and his opposite number Steve Cotterill too.

It is nothing to do with it being the 100th this, or first or last that, purely that two football men will be alongside one another in the Hillsborough technical areas doing what they love. That could quite easily not have happened.

Last season both suffered badly with Covid-19. Moore quickly came back from a period of illness in April and, with his asthma perhaps complicating matters, it developed pneumonia and blood clots on the lungs. It was the final game of the club’s unsuccessful fight against Championship relegation before he could take charge again.

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Cotterill had it even worse in January, exacerbated by a punctured lung and emphysema. He too thought he was better but ended back in hospital in March with pneumonia and only made it back in pre-season.

Owls boss Darren Moore Picture: Steve Ellis

Their shared experiences have built a bond between the pair and given Moore a new perspective but not one, he insists, which has dulled his competitive instincts.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Steve,” he says.

“For Steve and I, it feels like a huge milestone. We are both managing our football clubs. We both suffered terribly from illness; we were both in a really serious position.

“We both talked and shared our experience.

Dennis Adeniran of Sheffield Wednesday. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)

“He’s a man’s man, a leader of men. He has got a vast amount of experience and a thirst for the game in wanting to know more. I have got nothing but absolute respect for him.

“When the illness hit him it was his determination, strength and positivity as well as the medical team helping him that got him back fitter and stronger.

“I really appreciate the kind words he shared with me in the summer. There’s nothing but absolute respect for us towards one another. We’ve struck up a personal friendship.”

Going through what Moore and Cotterill did provides a different perspective on life. Odd though it might sound, suffering something so unpleasant can actually be positive.

“The big thing that touched me was the overwhelming support, that was incredible really and really touched me and I’d just like to thank everybody,” says Moore.

“I’m back now with that thirst to carry on.

“I do appreciate where we are now and what we have in front of us – not to say I didn’t before. When you go through those trials in life it brings things into perspective.

“I’m grateful for it but I’m back now and as competitive as ever. I want to continue trying to move forward.”

That competitive nature has been tested by the club Moore joined in March.

His grand return ended with relegation at Derby County but he was adamant he would not be baling out. Life in League One started well – four games unbeaten, no goals conceded. Since then it has been consecutive defeats – albeit with an international break and a Football League Trophy win in between – and no goals scored.

You will not see Moore shrugging his shoulders and telling you it is only a game.

“When you lose it really does hurt,” he insists. “We want to win games and be competitive. Every game we want to win, we want to compete, the ideal game is to win and play well and that’s what we all strive towards.

“Sometimes you win games when you don’t play as well. You accept that but you still want both sides of it.

“I’m disappointed to lose any game but we know that’s the reality that faces us in every fixture.

“We’re disappointed with last week (a 3-0 defeat at Plymouth Argyle) and we want to put that right.”

The Owls’ start to the season has shown both sides of the coin.

“We feel there have been solid performances but there have been bumps along the road,” reflects the manager, who is likely to have Dennis Adeniran back today but not Lewis Gibson.

“Whether they’ve been good or bad what you can do is learn from them.

“There are tell-tale signs developing for you to steer away from or look for more of. We’ve had some wonderful moments at the start of the season but some harsh lessons in the last couple of weeks that show what League One can be all about if we’re not performing at the level we can get to.

“It’s a matter of getting back to what we know best and being the best version of ourselves in terms of performance. They’ve tasted success in the division early doors and know where they’ve been at physically and mentally and they’ve tasted defeat and will have known where they’ve been at then so the message is clear in terms of what’s expected to keep the right results coming our way.

“People may say football’s football but I think they’re still getting used to League One football and what it’s like. We’ve got a lot of players who are not experienced at this level but I want us to embrace that as a team.

“We feel as a group and a team that there is so much more to come from us. We are working so hard every single day to be a smooth-running side.”

After a complete overhaul of the squad it will take time, even if Moore is as impatient as anyone.

“To be at our best level it’s playing full 90 minutes playing consistent football and we’ve shown it in patches but not over a sustained period,” he argues. “How do you do that? It’s games.

“I don’t feel like the season’s really settled down. We’ve had the start of the season, an international break and a couple of cup matches. We just want the games to come. People will start settling down and players finding more of a rhythm and consistency.

“We hope it’s tomorrow.”