WHEN the rotation policy that has become the trademark of Carlos Carvalhal’s reign at Sheffield Wednesday saw Jack Hunt drop out of the starting XI for the first time in the Championship, the full-back admits to finding his omission “very hard to take”.
But, a little over two months on, the 24-year-old says he has become a big fan of the Portuguese’s methods as the Owls prepare to host Nottingham Forest today at Hillsborough.
He is not the only one, either, with Carvalhal’s popularity having soared in S6 thanks to a nine-game unbeaten run that has included knocking Newcastle United and Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup.
“The manager has got to take a lot of credit,” said Hunt when asked by The Yorkshire Post about the feelgood factor that has swept through the club in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s remarkable 3-0 victory over Arsene Wenger’s Gunners.
“He is very thorough. It is a massive part of his belief. He goes into everything in such detail, whether it is – and no disrespect meant here – Mansfield or Arsenal in the Cup or Forest in the league.
“Before Tuesday, the manager went into our preparations in great detail during training. We had a meeting to go through exactly how we were going to play. He named the team on Monday morning to do a little bit of shape.
“The manager is a very tactical person so he set us up to get everyone back in our half so we could play on the counter-attack.
“We watched videos of Arsenal when they lost to Olympiakos in the Champions League. We tried to replicate that and it worked. For instance, our second goal was something we had worked on in training for some time (on Monday). Mind, it didn’t work in training as well as it did the other night!
“To be fair, the manager does the same, no matter who we play and he is getting the best out of the players. So, long may that continue.”
Carvalhal’s rotation policy means only Tom Lees of the 26 players to have featured for the Owls this term is ever-present. Of the rest, just four others can boast a number of starts that runs into double figures.
Hunt is one of that quartet, the former Huddersfield Town defender having chalked up his 12th start in 17 league and cup games in the humbling of Arsenal.
“For me, when I got rotated from the Leeds game I found it very hard to take,” admits the 24-year-old. “I thought I had started the season okay and I didn’t really expect to be out of the team.
“It (rotation) has taken some getting used to on a personal level and I think a few others are like that as well. But we all know that those are his beliefs and, fair play to him, because he does stick to them.
“As for the Forest game, it is up to the manager whether he is going to rotate or not.”
Carvalhal is likely to make changes again today, as Fernando Forestieri comes back into the reckoning after missing the Arsenal victory due to having already played in the Cup for Watford in August.
Gary Hooper, signed on loan from Norwich City just a few hours before the Gunners tie, could also come in for his debut as the Owls look to add to the woes of a visiting side whose season has been dogged by problems.
A transfer embargo meant Dougie Freedman endured a tough summer, while a six-game winless run has seen Forest tumble down the Championship table.
Hunt spent three months on loan at the City Ground last season as he fought back from a badly broken ankle sustained at Crystal Palace just a few weeks after securing a £2m move to the Premier League club from Huddersfield Town.
“Going to Forest made me fall back in love with football,” said Hunt, who made 19 appearances at the City Ground. “After such a bad injury at Crystal Palace and being put out on loan, it got me back to where I am today.
“I am really grateful to Forest and owe them a lot. The manager has changed since I was there and they are under an embargo so it is tough times for them. They are not playing very well at the moment and we are but we know anything can happen in the Championship. We will try and kick them while they are down.”
The dumping of Arsenal out of the Cup has raised expectation levels sky high, especially as it came on the back of the Owls moving to within touching distance of the Championship play-offs.
Hunt, though, knows there can be no slip-up against Forest if Wednesday are to continue to be taken seriously.
“Everybody is on a high from beating Arsenal,” he added.
“So, if we don’t go and beat Forest people will be thinking, ‘How can you beat Arsenal and not Nottingham Forest?’
“But football doesn’t work like that unfortunately and we just have to keep going.
“We have to keep this momentum going. Personally, I believe there is still more to come from the team. We all want to be in the top six this year. Whether we do that or not or fall short, who knows?
“The Championship can turn so quickly. We haven’t played well in some games but we have picked up points and that is key.
“When we are on it, everyone can see it doesn’t just come from one player. It comes from all over the pitch.
“We can cause anyone problems when we are on top of the game. When we are not on it, that is when we need to really dig deep and stick together.
“Of course, we know there will be low points as well. But it is nice to have a nine-game unbeaten run and, hopefully, that can continue against Nottingham Forest.”