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Winning makes Saturday nights so much better

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Michael Gray | 08:30 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Hi there, this week I'm going to blog about dealing with journalists and how I try to get away from the stresses of football, but first I was in the rare position of having a day off on Monday after our manager, Alan Irvine, gave us a free day because of the hectic schedule of games.

We've had five matches in just two weeks but at least we won four of them!

It's not just the effort the players have put in physically, it's the mental strain as well. Three of the five games were against teams in and around us at the bottom of the Championship. The intensity is the same for both sides and it does take that little bit extra out of you.

It was only a matter of weeks ago when we were in the relegation zone. It's very, very stressful in that position and believe me, not a nice place to be. You can see in training that the atmosphere is not the way you would like it to be so the four wins have been a bit of a godsend. You can see the change in the mood in the camp, it's now a more relaxed environment.

sheffwed595.jpg
The Owls have had a bit more to celebrate about in recent weeks after a dramatic upturn in form

The big question mark around the place has gone and we have our resolve back. Take last Saturday, when we faced a six-pointer against Plymouth. The game was huge and we were desperate to put some daylight between ourselves and another team near the bottom.

It was vitally important that we got a positive result and although the performance wasn't the best, the result was everything. The pitch at Hillsborough isn't in its best condition because of the bad weather so we had to really battle and win ugly, as the manager said after the game.

We went a goal behind and came back to win - that is something that has hardly been mentioned but to us, it was massive. It's the first time this season that we've fallen behind before coming back to win and that says a lot about the resolve we have at the minute. The determination is there for everyone to see and it needs to stay.

Every result on a Saturday dictates your mood on a Saturday night, good or bad. Players are just like supporters really, we leave the stadium with a big smile after a win and feel terrible after a defeat, especially when you are playing in front of supporters as loyal as those at Sheffield Wednesday.

We had an attendance of over 22,000 for the Plymouth game, which was a relegation battle and that crowd was higher than the gate at West Brom, who are chasing automatic promotion. So when we lose, the players feel for the fans and look forward to the next game to get that defeat out of the system.

It's difficult all round after a defeat, because all you want to do is go home and run over what happened, could I have done this better, could I have done that better? So when we were in a really sticky patch earlier in the season, it was not pleasant. You feel as if you've let yourself down, the fans down, but before you leave the stadium to face the supporters waiting outside, there is always the possibility of media work to do.

Media duties these days are an essential part of a footballer's role off the pitch because the profile of the game has gone through the roof. Journalists want the juicy stories and quotes, they are not too fussed if you have won, drawn or lost. The media requests for interviews are there quite literally the minute you step out of the dressing room door and have to be dealt with.

The requests are all done through our media team at the club and post-match interviews are not compulsory for players. But as an experienced member of the squad, I don't like to say no if I am asked because I think the fans have a right to hear a player's point of view.

Of course, it's a lot easier to talk about a win to the media than it is a defeat. When you're in the middle of a bad run of results and form - like we were not long ago when we couldn't score a goal, never mind win a game - the media inevitably report the negatives. And when you are being interviewed, you have to choose your words very carefully.

How can you put a different slant on saying we need to turn things around? When it doesn't turn around, you find yourself saying the same things week in, week out and what you do say can lose its impact. It's all part and parcel of the game but a side of football that the fans don't get to see, so it's good to have a platform such as this to give you a little insight.

Football is a massively stressful game for the fans and the players feel it too. That's why when we do get time off in the season, it is very much appreciated. I try and do stuff with my kids as much as possible, and something a little different from run of the mill things. That way, I can switch off from football, which is really important.

I recently took the kids to a place in Manchester called Challenge For Change, which was essentially a climbing day for the kids to enjoy. They really took to it and the guys there were just fantastic, the whole day helped me relax and take my mind away from the football.

People say to me that you must relax after a game, when you can let your hair down a little. But that's not for me, I don't go out partying on Saturday nights. I've got my mind set on playing for as long as I can and that would not be possible if I burned the candle at both ends.

If I get two or three days off, I try and get away, even if it's just down to London to see a show. Football is 24/7 these days, so it's vital to take the opportunities to take a break when the fixture list allows.

The summer is different because that's the only time of year when you can totally switch off. I've been to the same hotel for the last couple of years, the Elysium in Cyprus. It's absolutely fantastic and there's a guy there, Kratinos, who keeps in touch with me throughout the season. He always reads these blogs as well, so I'm sure he'll have a smile on his face when he sees his name mentioned in this one!

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