By John Lyons
When you talk about Portuguese managers you tend to think of one in particular, but Carlos Carvalhal aims to change all that.
For while Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho continues to work himself up into a lather about referees this seasons, Carvalhal, supposedly a good friend, is quietly but effectively plotting Sheffield Wednesday’s course in the Championship.
A centre-back in his playing days, the former Portugal U21 international has managed a host of clubs, including the likes of Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas.
But now he’s got arguably his biggest challenge as be bids to put the Owls in the shake-up for the Premier League having been appointed by the club’s Thai owners in the summer.
Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw at QPR was by no means a classic, but it extended Wednesday’s unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions.
While the R’s fans let their feelings be known with a chorus of boos at the final whistle, Wednesday – with seven changes to their starting XI from Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Hull City – could feel happy, if not ecstatic, with their evening’s work.
With an English fluent but not error-free, Carvalhal, who turns 50 in December, explained why he believes his side are on the right road.
“We played face by face with two teams that were relegated last year, Hull City and Queens Park Rangers,” he said. “We don’t have afraid of the games, we go to try to win and that’s what I want.
“I’m happy with the way we’re going, with the spirit of the team. You can imagine I must feel happy when you have a squad with a lot of players and I don’t have anyone that’s not fighting for the position. They are all ready to play. I think this is the way, the season is a long marathon.”
As to whether the Yorkshire club can win promotion and Carvalhal is more cautious, though that is clearly the long-term target.
“There are probably seven or eight teams that have more conditions than us,” he said.
“If I felt that we were more strong than opponents I would say that we want to do better.
“I think there are stronger teams in this division and the way we are going is the best way – we want to go game by game.
“On the park and in our practice we can do something and we want to play all the games with full energy. Let’s see in the final part of the season if we have the attitude to compete.”
No doubt Carvalhal is beginning to see just how gruelling life in the Championship is. He expected to arrive back in Sheffield at 3.30 or 4am on Wednesday morning after the midweek trip to London.
It meant precious little time to prepare for Friday’s night’s derby at Rotherham (which the Owls won 2-1 to remain ninth) – and then there’s the little matter of a glamour League Cup tie against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal on Tuesday night.
Yet the stylishly dressed Carvalhal seems to be taking it all in his stride and has clearly impressed his new players in the early months of the campaign.
After the QPR draw, right-back Liam Palmer told The FLP: “I think we’ve adapted to what he wants. He sets out a platform – whatever 11 players are out there, you know what he requires from that position. We defend right the way from the attackers and it filters through the team. The boys are buying into it.
“He likes us to be well-drilled and we watch the opposition. From that he works out a strategy of what he wants – it is quite in-depth.
“He can change the system and makes us aware of that before games. We are quite versatile and flexible.”
As for whether Carvalhal can get his message across clearly to his cosmopolitan squad – including four compatriots – in English, the 24-year-old is in no doubt.
“His English is spot-on, you can understand what he means,” he said. “There are a few lads that speak Portuguese and if he wants to tell them something specific he can talk to them in their own language.
“He covers all the bases, but his enthusiasm is what really gets through to you and the way he says things.”
And ex-Scotland U21 international Palmer believes the first non-British manager in the Owls’ 148-year history is creating the right environment for success.
“There’s a great buzz,” he added. “The boys all get on. There are some great lads, there’s a nice flavour to the group and different ways of playing.”
With more than 1,700 away fans in attendance at QPR, it shows that Wednesday are still a big club despite their lack of success in recent times. The fans like singing:
“We’re Sheffield Wednesday and we’re on our way back.”
Perhaps Carlos Carvalhal will be the man to take them there…