MX23RW : Monday, January 21 06:23:10

End-of-season report: Sheffield Wednesday

Sports Mole reflects on a hard-fought season for Sheffield Wednesday, which surprisingly resulted in the recent sacking of head coach Stuart Gray.

Little was expected of Sheffield Wednesday going into the 2014-15 season, but they surprised a few with a campaign built on staunch defending.

The Owls had the fourth-best overall defence and were especially impressive on the road, finishing with the seventh-best away record.

Although only three sides let in fewer goals than Stuart Gray's men, only three scored fewer and goals were the main reason that they weren't a regular fixture in the top half of the table.

Still, they were unable to sign many players last summer and many considered that Gray had done a decent job with the squad at his disposal.

Stuart Gray, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium on August 30, 2014© Getty Images

Unfortunately for Gray, this was not a view shared by new club owner Dejphon Chansiri, who last week sacked the head coach after 18 months at the helm.

Chansiri wants to achieve promotion back to the Premier League by the club's 150th anniversary in 2015 and he will have to think very carefully about Gray's replacement if this ambition is to be a realistic goal.


Five key results

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Wednesday, August 9, 2014: Wednesday finished 2013-14 with three straight defeats and faced a difficult trip to beaten playoff semi-finalists Brighton for their curtain-raiser back in August. The Seagulls also had a new manager at the helm in Sami Hyypia and Wednesday gave him a nightmare start with a narrow victory thanks to Giles Coke's stunning winner.

Middlesbrough 2-3 Wednesday, August 23, 2014: Wednesday followed up the win over Brighton with back-to-back home draws with promotion favourites Derby County and early pacesetters Millwall before their trip to Middlesbrough. Atdhe Nuhiu's double either side of Stevie May's first goal for the club put Gray's men three to the good inside the hour mark. Grant Leadbitter reduced the deficit to one with a late double, but Wednesday held out to extend their unbeaten start and move into the top six.

Wednesday 2-0 Middlesbrough, February 28, 2015: Over the course of the season, Wednesday drew 11 games at home - two more than anyone else - and only won five. Their three victories in the first half of the season all came over opposition below them in the table, but their first home win of 2015 was a mightily impressive one over then second-placed Middlesbrough. Nuhiu again opened the scoring before on-loan Manchester United man Will Keane sealed the win after half time.

Rotherham United 2-3 Wednesday, March 21, 2015: Up against Yorkshire rivals Rotherham, it seemed Wednesday would be falling to a 1-0 defeat as the match entered the final 10 minutes. What followed at the New York Stadium was maybe the best end to a game all season. Caolan Lavery equalised for the Owls in the 86th minute, but Rotherham quickly restored their advantage to go 2-1 ahead going into injury time. Nuhiu equalised dramatically in the 93rd minute, but that wasn't the end of it as Kieran Lee sent the travelling fans bonkers with a winner in the 98th minute.

Watford 1-1 Wednesday, May 2, 2015: On the final day of the season Wednesday travelled to league leaders Watford, who were expecting to be crowned champions with a victory. The Hornets took a first-half lead to start the celebrations, but they couldn't extend their advantage and Wednesday well and truly crashed the party as Nuhiu scored his 11th goal of the season in injury time. An impressive result against what is now a Premier League side and the sort of form Wednesday will hope to take into next season.


Best Player - Keiren Westwood

Only Middlesbrough's Dimitrios Konstantopoulos had more clean sheets than the Irishman, who won Wednesday several points with his exploits between the sticks.

He was named in the Championship Team of the Year and you can see why with the above video.

The former Sunderland stopper has a year left on his Owls contract and the club should be thinking about tying him down to a new deal this summer.


Most Improved Player - Kieran Lee

The midfielder had by far the best goalscoring season of his career, netting six times in 33 league appearances in his third season for the Owls.

The 98th-minute heroics at Rotherham will live long in the memory and he also bagged a late winner in the April victory over Brentford.

The 26-year-old was out of contract this summer, but he has committed to the club for two more years by signing a fresh deal.


Best Signing - Tom Lees

Tom Lees of Sheffield Wednesday in action with Scott Arfield of Burnley during the Capital One Cup Second Round match between Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday at Turf Moor on August 26, 2014© Getty Images

Lees switched Yorkshire clubs by joining from Leeds United and went on to have a fine season at centre-back. He played the full 90 minutes in all but two of the Owls' games to lead them to the fourth-best defensive record.

He also showed great discipline as he was only booked once during the course of the season.


Best Goal - Giles Coke vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

The best goal of the season arrived on the first day of term as Coke swept home a curling effort to seal an impressive away win on the South coast.


Must Do Better - Stevie May

After scoring more than 50 goals in two seasons in Scotland, Wednesday decided to gamble on the young striker and signed him to a four-year contract last summer.

May went on to start just over half of the Owls' games in the Championship and was only able to return seven goals in 42 total appearances.

He is still only 22 years old, but Wednesday supporters will want to see him push on next season.


End-of-season grade: B

Considering how hard Wednesday found it to sign players last summer and when you compare their squad to many of the other teams in the league, Gray did a good job keeping them in and around mid-table for much of the campaign.

Chansiri initially named Gray on a three-man sporting director committee, but two of the three people have now gone with Adam Pearson ditching Wednesday for Leeds and Gray having been sacked.

Wednesday supporters haven't been that impressed by Chansiri's ownership so far and his reported approach for Carlos Carvalhal has raised many eyebrows.

Gray undoubtedly solidified Wednesday last season and whoever comes in will be expected to push the Owls towards the playoffs, but that seems a hard task at the moment.

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Leeds caretaker manager Neil Redfearn shouts instructions during the npower Championship match between Charlton Athletic and Leeds United at the Valley on April 06, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Leeds UnitedLeeds28166647301754
2Norwich CityNorwich28158552361653
3Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd28155846291750
4West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom27138655352047
5Middlesbrough281211531201147
6Derby CountyDerby2813784035546
7Bristol City2812883529644
8Hull City28117104135640
9Swansea CitySwansea28117103732540
10Blackburn RoversBlackburn28101083741-440
11Birmingham CityBirmingham2891274033739
12Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest2891273932739
13Aston Villa2891275145639
14Queens Park RangersQPR28116113439-539
15Stoke CityStoke2891183335-238
16Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds2898113345-1235
17Brentford28810104339434
18Preston North EndPreston2889114345-233
19Millwall2878133444-1029
20Wigan AthleticWigan2885152841-1329
21Rotherham UnitedRotherham28510132746-1925
22Reading2858153143-1223
23Bolton WanderersBolton2757151840-2222
24Ipswich TownIpswich2839162248-2618

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