SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY head coach Carlos Carvalhal hopes Yorkshire’s footballing re-emergence will continue in the shape of the Owls being joined by White Rose rivals Huddersfield Town and Leeds United in the Championship play-offs.
The Portuguese took time out at the start of his press conference yesterday to publicly congratulate Steel City rivals Sheffield United and South Yorkshire neighbours Doncaster Rovers following their recent promotions.
The baton has now been passed to four other county sides seeking to provide their own magic moments over the coming weeks, with Wednesday, Town, Leeds and Bradford City all in the play-off positions in their respective divisions.
Carvalhal, whose fifth-placed Owls can take another significant step towards booking a top-six spot by beating Derby County in front of around 30,000 fans at Hillsborough this afternoon, said: “I expect more (promotions) in the future.
“Since the mines closed and the (industry) problems, the region started changing. But sociologists know that football represents society all of the time and when one, two or three teams develop, it means the region is more positive and powerful.
“I think that this is a fact and it is good for all of us that these things happen.”
Wednesday head into this weekend’s key Championship programme as the form team out of the three Yorkshire promotion chasers and victory over the Rams today would secure a fifth successive league win for the first time in Carvalhal’s reign.
On his side’s recent form, Carvalhal – who has revealed that key midfielder Kieran Lee is available again following injury – added: “We are near our best level and our line is going up while some teams are starting to come down a little.
“It is a good sign because the good thing about our (earlier) injuries is that some players did not play almost forty games and they are more fresh to attack this end of the season.
“We can promise to the Sheffield Wednesday fans that we will fight a lot to try to win the three points.”
Since the mines closed and the (industry) problems, the region started changing. But sociologists know that football represents society all of the time and when one, two or three teams develop, it means the region is more positive and powerful.Carlos Carvalhal
A home victory for the Owls today would mean that even if they lost at Ipswich next weekend, they would qualify for the play-offs if they beat Fulham on the final game of the season at Hillsborough on May 7.
For Leeds United, who dropped out of the play-offs for the first time since late November following Monday’s 1-0 home loss to Wolves, the margin for error is somewhat smaller.
Garry Monk’s side are still masters of their own destiny, with three wins in their final three matches being enough to seal a play-off berth courtesy of play-off rivals Wednesday and Fulham meeting on the final day of the season.
But any slip-ups would see them potentially relying on favours elsewhere, with the Whites’ first key game coming at Burton today, when Leeds make their first competitive visit to the Pirelli Stadium against hosts who are battling against relegation.
Ahead of today’s first ‘cup final’ at Burton, head coach Monk said: “It is very clear. We have the mindset now that we have to win the three games.
“We have to go into it with the best possible frame of mind and the best way to try and win those three games.
“That is what we said straight afterwards (on Monday) and that has been the message all week.
“I actually said to the players afterwards that it is actually, in a funny way, a bit easier.
“Previous to the game on Monday, there was a lot of talk about how many points you would need to make the play-offs and there was also a lot of talk about what the opposition results were.
“It is very simple now, we win our three games and we make the play-offs, so that is our mindset.”
Fourth-placed Huddersfield, who have a game in hand on Leeds and Wednesday, can seal a top-six place if they beat sixth-placed Fulham this afternoon, with the added motivation of avenging a 5-0 thrashing at Craven Cottage in October in the process.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side are the team effectively standing in the way of a three-team Yorkshire contingent in the Championship play-offs and Town head coach David Wagner is not surprised by their recent rise.
He added: “After we played Fulham I knew how strong they were. I always said, ‘Fulham will be back and be a clear competitor at the end for the top six’. They have a high-quality squad with a high-quality manager and totally deserve to be where they are.”
Previews: Pages 3-5.