Wednesday. Sheffield Wednesday.
By Mike Peter
So Daniel Craig is the new James Bond.
The decision to choose Craig over various better looking actors represents a change that the series is going through. After the turgid, smug "Die Another Day", the producers have decided to go for a slicker, harder, uglier Bond in his next escapade, "Casino Royale". As well as the afore-mentioned ugliness, MGM plan to lose the gadgets.
This to me seems very, very wrong. It's all very well to move away from the farce that was "Die Another Day" but to remove something fundamentally Bond from the equation is not right at all. You'll be telling me Bond is a proper spy next; one who spends hour upon hour researching terrorists in a small office in London before firing off an e-mail to the SAS. Not the Bond we know, who blows things up, sleeps with beautiful women and then, if possible, blows them up too.
Which brings me, very tenuously, onto Tuesday's fixture with Wednesday. Or maybe not. Due to restrictions put upon BSaD by Football DataCo, I'm not even sure whether this preview is legal. So let's keep it on the hush-hush, eh? This is a covert preview! Sssssh!
Which ignores the very obvious point that you all know that Watford are playing Wednesday anyway, whether Football DataCo like it or not. So, like James Bond, there really is no need to pussyfoot around the subject. Let's get on with it - preferably with a few explosions along the way.
After Paul Sturrock's arrival this time last year, Wednesday rose into the play-off positions and stayed there for the remainder of the campaign. They achieved promotion after beating Hartlepool in a closely contested final, but, despite this success, Sturrock gave the squad a major overhaul over the summer, with eight new players coming in to replace the twelve who left Hillsborough. However, Wednesday have struggled so far and currently languish in the relegation zone.
In goal for Wednesday will be David Lucas; the ex-Preston stopper has impressed since signing last year. His back-up is Chris Adamson, but Sturrock tends not to bother putting a keeper on the bench.
Defensively the Owls have a lot of options, although their starting back four is pretty settled. The right and left backs - Frank Simek and John Hills were both signed in the summer. Hills was probably the best part of Gillingham's season, whilst Simek was released by Arsenal. Lee Bullen and Maurice Ross provide the cover, with the amusingly named Paul Heckingbottom and ex-Ipswich man Drissa Diallo both out injured. In the centre, Graham Coughlan captained Plymouth during their ascent through the leagues with Sturrock, he's partnered by the only surviving member of last year's back four, Graeme Lee. Academy product Richard Wood is the back-up.
Chris Eagles should start on the right. Much like with his time at Watford, he hasn't set the world on fire, and struggled for form earlier in the season. His competition, Jon-Paul McGovern, is out with a torn thigh muscle and thus Eagles' position is fairly stable. Richie Partridge, released by Liverpool's academy in the summer, provides cover for both flanks. On the left, Chris Brunt is sporadically okay. In the centre, Glenn Whelan is regarded as a big talent by Owls fans. "Creative and with an eye for goal," one website describes him, and it was he that scored the winning goal against Hartlepool in the play-off final. Either Craig Rocastle - son of David - or summer acquisition Burton O'Brien will play alongside him, in what is a rather youthful midfield.
With goals in short supply, Wednesday desperately want a striker, but bids for Nathan Tyson and Franchise's Clive Platt have been turned down, leaving them with a weak looking strike-force. David Graham should start - rescued by Wednesday from an unsuccessful spell at Wigan, Graham was hugely prolific with Torquay in 03/04. A total of two goals this season have led Sturrock to ask him to "grasp the nettle," whatever that means. The less than prolific Lee Peacock should join Graham up front, with youngster Barry Corr and O'Brien providing the back-up. Drew Talbot and Stephen McLean both have long-term injuries, whilst Adam Proudlock, sacked after contravening the club's discipline rules, is now "on loan" at Ipswich.
After a series of less positive results, this game could Watford's chance to haul "Boothroyd's Revolution" back on track. However, whilst Wednesday don't look much on paper, Paul Sturrock will have them organised and pumped up. This could be an interesting one.