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Irvine enjoying honeymoon period

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Michael Gray | 22:15 UK time, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I have to start by saying what a pleasure it is to be writing this blog with a smile on my face.

As regular readers will know, this season has not been without its troubles at Sheffield Wednesday on the pitch but now, at last, we seem to be heading in the right direction.

We've just had two wins in a week away from home, against Barnsley and Blackpool, both of which were very tough games on paper and naturally, we are all absolutely delighted with that return.

The new manager, Alan Irvine, has come in and had an immediate effect on everyone at the football club and I think that has been totally evident in his two games in charge so far.

So this week, I thought I would try and offer an insight into how a change at the top can trigger a major turn in fortune on the pitch. What is said in the dressing-room stays in the dressing-room but I will try and scratch the surface a little on this subject that so often comes around in the game.

People mention honeymoon periods for new managers and to a certain extent that can be true. But that is not always the case, as we saw last weekend when four new managers took charge at their new clubs for the first time and we were the only team to emerge with a positive result.

Burnley, Bolton and Preston all had new managers in place as well as ourselves but they each lost their games so that goes to show that a mere change is not enough to turn the tide straight away.

So what has happened at Hillsborough? Well, first and foremost, the new manager has asked for and got the reaction he wanted. Alan walked in and set us targets and made it perfectly clear that we can expect nothing but hard work between now and the end of the season. He told us what we need to do and what he expects from us as players.

Sheffield Wednesday boss Alan Irvine Alan Irvine spent two seasons in charge of Preston before taking the Wednesday job

The key thing here is that everyone has responded. Not just individuals but the whole team, to a man. There's just a new freshness about us and from what I have seen so far, everyone seems very impressed.

The fans have played their part too and that has rubbed off on the players. Alan received a great reaction from our fans at Barnsley and they carried it over to Blackpool on Tuesday. Clichéd it may be, but any player will tell you that criticism when you're playing doesn't help anyone. So to see the fans react so positively has been sensational.

We scored inside three minutes at Oakwell and I looked up to see the amazing sight of nearly 5,000 Wednesday fans quite literally bouncing in Barnsley. It was an absolutely incredible moment and believe me, the boost and the buzz something like that gives you is just indescribable.

It gives you that extra spur on. There's no better feeling than hearing your fans singing for 90 minutes and the reason they are doing that is because their team is playing well and giving everything they have got so they are simply doing the same. Simple really.

The bottom line is that sometimes it clicks straight away with new managers and sometimes it doesn't. I remember when Mark Hughes came into Blackburn when I was playing there, the reaction was instant and he went on to take us into the top six. He changed the shape of the team and the formation and - I can't emphasise this enough - the team, as a team, responded.

There is no magic dust to sprinkle around the place, it is a combination of experience, nous and good old-fashioned hard work. In our case, everything is gelling at the moment because Alan has got the reaction he wanted and that is vital. You can see everyone putting that little bit extra into training and then into matches.

It was quite clear the moment Alan walked in the door that we are dealing with the ultimate professional who leaves no stone unturned and nothing to chance. We go through absolutely everything and if it goes wrong in matches, we cannot blame the manager, we can only blame ourselves. We do have a lot to take in but it switches you on and gets you 100 per cent ready for the game.

I think it's been plain to see in his first two games that we have looked a lot more organised and our fitness levels have been phenomenal, we have given everything.

Come into the dressing-room at half-time and you will see that we are ready for the break but at the same time ready to get back out there and play. That's a pretty good combination in my book.

Consequently, the confidence is coming back. It's no secret that we've hardly been high on confidence this season and the only way to change that was by winning games. We have won two in four days, come out of the relegation zone along the way, and that alone has given us a major shot in the arm.

From standing at the bottom of a huge hill, we're now up and running. We're not over the top just yet but we're showing that we're giving everything we can to get out of this situation. The fans are sticking with us and it's been fantastic so far.

We don't want this feeling to ebb away and you can see everyone looking forward to the training, never mind the games.

We have the first home game under Alan this weekend and we want to get off to a great start at Hillsborough under the new manager.

We have set ourselves a standard and it's up to all of us - the players, the manager, the coaching staff, to keep those same standards and not let them drop.

So I would close by saying to our fans: get down to Hillsborough on Saturday and see the difference for yourself.


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