Sheffield Wednesday v Blackburn Rovers: Owls deserve their badge of honour, says Massimo Luongo

Massimo Luongo believes Garry Monk has made Sheffield Wednesday a “horrible” team to play against.

Massimo Luongo: Aims to reward fans. Picture: Steve Ellis
Massimo Luongo: Aims to reward fans. Picture: Steve Ellis

It is not unusual to hear opposition camps – win or lose – describe how difficult a job it is to compete against Monk’s side.

Since arriving in September, the former Leeds United and Middlesbrough manager has moulded the Owls into a well-drilled unit, who concede few goals and are not afraid to adopt a direct and more physical approach if needed.

It has taken the Owls into the top six of the Championship and accounted for Premier League side Brighton in the FA Cup.

While some may wince at being called “horrible”, Luongo and his Owls team-mates wear it as a badge of honour.

“We are not easy to beat,” said Luongo, a summer signing from QPR. “When things aren’t going well, take the Birmingham game a couple of weeks ago, our attitude is ‘we are not losing this game’.

“We go on the road and teams don’t want to play us, we are horrible to play against, we don’t give an inch.”

That was encapsulated in their last two away games, two clean sheets and wins at Premier League Brighton and then Championship leaders Leeds United.

Luongo added: “Having that mentality is so important. On top of that, we have got quality, which you saw against Leeds, to nick it at the end. We can punish somebody with just one or two chances.

“I have played against players who have been called horrible and you know you are not in for a nice day.

“We are getting that reputation – that identity – that when you play against us, it’s not going to be an easy game.”

Since Monk walked through the door at Hillsborough, he has instilled discipline and organisation into the team.

“The manager deserves all the credit, combined with the mentality of the players,” said Luongo.

“From day one, when he came into the dressing room, we have been trying to create our identity.

“Defensively, everyone knows their roles, it’s drilled into their brains. I go to sleep and I can see what I am going to do on a weekend.

“He has done that very well. With the managers I have had previously, the trouble is, to get their message across is always a difficult thing.

“If someone doesn’t do their job, with the way we play, you do get found out.

“There’s no hiding with the way we play. Your man is your man, if you lose your man, or you get beat, it’s obvious to everyone and you don’t want to let your team down.

“Rather than us being strict with each other, it’s more taking the responsibility on yourself because you don’t want to let your team-mates down.”

While those wins at Brighton and Leeds were eye-catching, they were desperately needed too to shake off a Christmas hangover.

Three defeats in a week – at Stoke City and home games against Hull City and Cardiff City – had scuppered Wednesday’s top-two ambitions and left Hillsborough deflated.

“We had that bogey week, when we lost three on the bounce, and I think the FA Cup didn’t come at the best time because we wanted to get points in the League,” said Luongo.

“But, it was a great win for us (at Brighton), and we carried that on, set the standard and created that winning mentality.

“We took it into the Leeds game and it was a great response to that Christmas week.

“The players are buzzing, just because we worked so hard during the week, specifically on Leeds and how they were going to play.

“To go out and execute it perfectly, get the result, it was the best feeling. There was a lot of hype around that game, it was a massive game. It was an incredible feeling, I don’t think I could sleep that night.”

Today is just the second of three games at Hillsborough in the opening six weeks of 2020.

With their last win in S6 coming on December 22, Australian Luongo is eager for a home victory.

“We haven’t had a home win in a while, so it would be nice to do that in front of our fans,” said the 27-year-old.

“They deserve a good show, a good performance, from us.

“We want to show the character that was shown at Brighton and Leeds. The evidence shows, when we do that, we get a good result.

“Blackburn are quite organised, play 4-4-2, and are quite solid.

“They have signed experienced players, who have played at this level for a long time.

“Every game is tough in this league, the most important thing is we have to turn up.”

Luongo’s season has been disrupted by injuries, but the former Tottenham youngster believes he brings something different to the Owls midfield.

“I think I have adapted quite quickly to the players and the coach,” he said.

“I have had my fair share of injuries, which hasn’t helped.

“But I feel, when I am fit, I have slotted back into the team really well.

“I feel like I have something, that the other players don’t, and can help this team. I am a box-to-box midfielder. I like a tackle, but I like to create things, and I don’t think you get many players like that nowadays.

“My energy helps, getting up the pitch. I like to dribble with the ball, too. I like to do everything, but physically that’s really hard and demanding.”

After scoring the winning goal in back-to-back Hillsborough games in October against Wigan and Stoke, the Australian has not netted since.

“I started so well, and it’s in the back of my head,” said Luongo. “I know the chances will come.

“The last two games we haven’t had many chances. I just want to score. My mental challenge is get in the box. You don’t score unless you get in the box.”