Sheffield Wednesday 2019-20: ‘This is a special club and we are desperate to bring success’

Holding the fort: Owls caretaker Manager Lee Bullen.Holding the fort: Owls caretaker Manager Lee Bullen.
Holding the fort: Owls caretaker Manager Lee Bullen.
FOR someone with aspirations to get the Sheffield Wednesday job on a permanent basis, the opening day trip to Reading could easily be seen as something of a dress rehearsal.
Read More
Fan’s View 2019-20: Sheffield Wednesday – Owls have potential to surprise in the...

An opportunity to lay down a marker, showcase to fans what the future can hold if he gets the nod somewhere down the line and, hopefully, get everyone on board.

Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri in action against Espanyol. (Picture: Steve Ellis)Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri in action against Espanyol. (Picture: Steve Ellis)
Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri in action against Espanyol. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Lee Bullen, however, is different. Sure, the Scot would love nothing more than to start the campaign with all three points. And, sure, he wants the sold out away end to have a day out to remember at the Madejski Stadium.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But tomorrow is not about the 48-year-old’s prospects but those of a club he now regards as home.

“I don’t see it as anything like a rehearsal,” said Bullen when asked about tomorrow’s trip to Berkshire by The Yorkshire Post.

“The focus is solely on the players and how they perform at Reading. Everything else, including any talk of myself, is irrelevant.

“We want to start the season on a positive. That is all that matters. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Such a selfless stance will not come as a surprise to anyone who watched Bullen as a player.

He spent four years on the Hillsborough books, arriving in 2004 fresh from leading Dunfermline out in the Scottish Cup final.

Promotion from League One followed at the end of his first season. Times were not always easy back in the second tier for the club but Bullen’s presence was a reassuring sight.

He played in all 11 outfield positions, including famously in goal for the second half of a 1-0 relegation scrap at Millwall, before returning north of the border to see out the rest of his playing career at Falkirk.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On retirement, he returned to S6 to join the youth set-up and was subsequently promoted to the senior coaching staff in 2015. Bullen’s two previous stints as caretaker manager came following the departures of Carlos Carvalhal and Jos Luhukay.

“I regard the city as my home and Sheffield Wednesday as my club,” said the Edinburgh-born former defender. “Apart from a couple of years when I returned back north, this has been my home since I first came to Sheffield as a player.

“I feel I understand these fans and what they want to see. I was brought up in a similar working city, where the people want to see effort and pride in the badge.

“They will forgive most things if it is clear everyone is working as hard as is possible. Defeats can be handled if the effort is there.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I also know what the chairman (Dejphon Chansiri) is all about and what the club is all about. This is a special football club and we are all desperate to bring success.”

Steve Bruce’s switch to Newcastle United brought about Bullen’s third stint in temporary charge. Having worked alongside the former Hull City chief and his two long-term assistants, Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, the Scot was as surprised as anyone by last month’s turn of events.

That, though, is in the past as Bullen looks to get the season under way with victory over Reading.

“I do not know how long this will go on but I am really enjoying it,” he said. “The players have responded really well and taken on board everything we have asked.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“This is a good squad. It needs a couple of additions, of course. But we are fortunate to have the quality that we have.

“These are good players. Very good players. I know what they are capable of. Maybe they have let themselves down as a group at times in the past but they have also excelled at times as well.”

On taking charge following Bruce’s exit, Bullen added: “I was disappointed because I wanted to learn from Steve. That was not meant to be but I did enjoy my time working with the three Steves.

“The good thing is the building blocks were in place. That was great in terms of moving forward. It helped that their thinking was very similar to my own so I did not change much.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There was no need, as the players had bought into what they had been asked to do from the very start.

“A lot of work had already gone in and the messages we had been trying to get across were on board with the players.

“It would have been wrong to change that, especially as I agreed with the original messages anyway. We all had a similar philosophy.”

Wednesday have added three new faces this summer in free agents Julian Borner, Moses Odubajo and Kadeem Harris. Now the club has had a soft transfer embargo lifted, further signings are expected before next Thursday’s deadline.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In common with the rest of the Championship, however, any additions are likely to be modest ones as clubs wrestle with staying inside Financial fair Play paramaters following Birmingham City’s nine-point deduction.

“Fulham are maybe the only clubwho have spent a bit of their Premier League money,” added Bullen. “But, otherwise, it has been quiet compared to other years.

“The others who have come down are taking a different route. Look at Huddersfield, they have been similar to ourselves. It is the sensible way to go.

“It was different a few years ago when clubs were spending big money. FFP means clubs are having to be careful, especially after what happened to Birmingham.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

INS: Julian Borner (Arminia Bielefeld), Moses Odubajo (Brentford), Kadeem Harris (Cardiff City).

OUTS: George Boyd (Peterborough United), Daniel Pudil (Mlada Boleslav), Almen Abdi, Gary Hooper, David Jones, Marco Matias, Frederik Nielsen, Connor O’Grady.

Verdict: Losing Steve Bruce was a blow, there is no getting away from that. This serial promotion winner – he has taken two clubs into the Premier League twice – had restored a sense of belief to Hillsborough and things were shaping up nicely. Bruce’s departure, however, is far from the end. The same squad is still here, while Lee Bullen has proved to be the proverbial safe pair of hands since being thrust into the role a few weeks ago. What happens next, however, is key with someone like Chris Hughton the sort of appointment that would really make the rest of the Championship sit up and take note. Dejphon Chansiri, typically, is playing his cards close to his chest but if Bullen can oversee a start strong enough that either he gets the job or lays strong foundations for someone else then the Owls can sustain a challenge.