By Ty Jenner, Writer for MKDSA.
Ty recently spoke to Co-Chairman of @ArmedForcesOwls, and Owls fan Adam Eccles who gave fantastic insight to the big game ahead at Hillsborough. (Interview 10/2/23)
It has been some season for the Owls so far who are currently sitting top of the pile. How do you think the season has been so far?
The season has been pretty much as you would expect from our league position to be honest; pretty enjoyable haha! Last season we were a great side when playing the top teams in the league, having got 4 wins from a possible 6 against the 3 teams that finished above us, yet we really struggled against the teams down the lower end of the table. This year, we seem to have matured under Darren Moore and are able to win “dirty”, enduring the dirty tackles and time wasting and winning when it seemed like we wouldn’t/couldn’t. I’m just hoping we can continue till the end of the season in the same form!
How long have you supported Sheffield Wednesday and how did your supporters journey begin?
I’d like to say I’ve been an Owl since birth, but as to my first real game following Wednesday, I’d be going back to 2005 when I was 7 and the League One Play Off Final staged at the Millennium Stadium during the Wembley rebuild. Goals from JP McGovern, Steve MacLean, Glenn Whelan and Drew Talbot saw us defeat Hartlepool United 4-2 and win promotion to the Championship. I’ve only had a season ticket since 2017/18 due to work commitments precluding me from going before that point, so I missed all the play off fun and have only seen us steadily decline and get relegated once again. Seeing us finally get our act together is something special for me.
How do you think the January Transfer Window went for Wednesday. Do you think the club could or should have signed more players?
The January transfer window was a weird one for me. It held a lot of promise with some exciting rumours that we were looking at some players that would supposedly “offer something we don’t currently have”, yet we came out of it in pretty much the same position we entered it in. We lost McGuinness (a brilliant centre half on loan from Cardiff) but replaced him with Aiden Flint (bloke would genuinely head bricks away, he puts his head on everything coming into the box), and we also returned Alex Mighten to Forest (though that doesn’t feel like much of a loss, the lad wasn’t up to League One’s brutal side and he ended up on the floor every 5 minutes).
I think we could have strengthened more, but I trust Moore, and we got to where we are now with the players we have, so I have no reason to believe we won’t maintain this position now.
With Sheffield Wednesday clearly setting their sites on automatic promotion, do you think they can fend off Plymouth and Ipswich and get themselves back to the Championship?
I think we can push all the way for promotion now. It’s in our hands with a game in hand, and a possibility to go 9 points clear of Ipswich on Saturday still maintaining that opportunity to go 12 points ahead. Plymouth will struggle a little now without their star goalkeeper and their best centre half out injured, but they will still be up there. I think everyone’s major concern is Derby. They’re on a similar run to what we are in the league, and we play each other at Hillsborough on the last game of the season. It’s almost scripted that game could be decisive, so I’m hoping and praying we get the job done before then.
How surprised are you with MK Dons current league position considering we were one point from the championship last season?
The downfall of MK Dons this year has been both surprising yet expected. Sadly, when you sell your best players for good money, yet fail to reinvest that into quality for the side, you are always going to struggle the following season. Losing Darling and Twine to the Championship was expected with yourselves failing to get promoted in the Play Offs like we did, and it’s hard to blame the departing players, what with more money, larger fanbases, higher tier football and even Premier League football dangling before their eyes as a promising prospect. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and one your ownership didn’t deal with well at all. A shame for your fans, but I suppose a chance to rebuild next year, possibly with 2 of the of the big teams in the league, opening up the way for you to storm back in should you operate well in the summer!
How do you think your team will approach the game on Saturday? ie formation/style.
We seem to have stuck well to the 3-5-2 formation, providing us with a platform to provide 2 strikers ample crosses into the box during the game, whilst also giving the flexibility of up to 5 defenders and a holding midfielder to aid the protection of our goal difference (which, touch wood, has been very good so far this season, with us only conceding 18 goals to this point before the Ipswich and Morecambe games). Our midfield 3, however, has been the key to our success, Bannan, Byers and Vaulks have dominated almost every game we have played. Being able to hold the middle of the pitch down has enabled us to control the pace of most of our games, allowing us to restrict the number of opportunities the opposition have. We are a very different side to last year for sure. I can’t see this formation changing for your visit to S6.
If you could have any MK Dons player join your club, who would you choose and why?
If I had to pick, it would either be Mo Eisa or Conor Grant. I remember your fans slating Eisa at times last season, but as an opposing fan, he always comes across as a handful for defenders, and would provide a different option up top for us. As Conor Grant came through our academy and was sold to Rochdale, to see him playing in the same league is both exciting yet also disappointing. Special mention to Jack Tucker, who we were linked with in the summer, before we went on to sign Michael Ihiekwe on a free from Rotherham.
What has been your overall highlight since you started supporting the club?
Best highlight for me as an Owl? Tough one. Either the 2015/16 play off season where we got 90 minutes away from a return to the Premier League, only to bottle it to Steve Bruce’s Hull City at Wembley (we also beat Arsenal 3-0 in the League Cup that year at home) or as a single event, beating Leeds 6-0 in the League in 2014, OR the Derby Double of 2009 beating Sheffield United 1-0 at home and 2-1 away, with Marcus Tudgay scoring a speculative 30 yard effort into the top bins at their place to silence the home crowd (made even better by a Sheffield United fan standing as if to shout “wahay” as he thought the ball was going over, only to see it nestle into the net hahaha, great times.)
Which players do you feel could cause MK Dons some problems on Saturday?
When we play you, depending on if they’re fit, I think our midfield will be your biggest threat. With Byers and Vaulks playing sweeper roles together stopping passes/runs into the defensive line, and Bannan’s ludicrous passing ability (the man could find the City of Atlantis with his left foot), I think you’ll struggle to get a hold of the game. If you then revert to long ball, Aiden Flint is going to have a field day. On Saturday just gone against Plymouth, I lie not, he headed a goal kick from the Plymouth keeper BACK TO HIM from midway in our half. David Stockdale tweeted him later that evening naming him “Trampoline Headband” or something similar, it was a joke.
Lastly, what is your score prediction for this Saturday’s game?
My score prediction is 2-0 Wednesday. We don’t concede many, but our strikers also don’t score many either (we have the most 1-0 wins in the league). I think home advantage and frustration from your players at few opportunities will give us that added impetus to get over the
By Ty Jenner, Writer for MKDSA.