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Remembering a special Sheffield Wednesday fan

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Michael Gray | 08:00 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

I want to blog about the armed services this week, but I'd better start by congratulating our gaffer on winning the Manager of the Month award. We won four out of five matches in the Championship during January and that coincided with the arrival of Alan Irvine.

When he came in, he had a long chat with the players and told us what he expects from us in his own way. He obviously got his point across because we started winning straight away.

Alan is very astute, he doesn't leave any stone unturned in preparing for matches and he doesn't leave anything to chance. I think that is the way it has to be because then we all know where we stand. He doesn't like it when players slack off and he never slacks off himself. The standards have been set so high that we don't want to let them drop.

With the victory over Blackpool on Tuesday night, we've now won five of our last seven matches. But we mustn't let our standards drop because there are still plenty of games to be won in the remainder of the season. We've got some tough, tough games coming up and we have to prepare right for them.

The gaffer is a gentleman, but he is also someone who will give you every opportunity to try to win games. We've been reaping the rewards of all the effort that we've been putting in and it's a great place to be at the moment. It's been a joy to come in for training every day and, because of the results, the players have all got smiles on their faces. The results have also seen us climb out of the bottom three, and we have to keep on winning so we don't slip back into the relegation zone again.

Residents of Wootton Bassett pay their respects to Corporal Liam Riley

On Tuesday night, we paid tribute to Corporal Liam Riley, who lost his life in Afghanistan last week. It's important that we remember the incredible work that our armed services do overseas and the difficult times that soldiers' families go through.

Liam showed immense bravery - he was killed by a roadside bomb while trying to save his friend and fellow soldier Lance Corporal Graham Shaw. Liam was only 21 and it is such a tragic situation. He was also a massive Sheffield Wednesday fan, like everyone in his family, so when I was asked to wear a T-shirt in the warm-up I felt it was a real honour. It puts football in its place when people are losing their sons or a member of their family.

My t-shirt worn in tribute to Liam
I wore a T-shirt in tribute to Liam Riley

We can't really comprehend what Liam's family must be going through, but if we can make a small gesture in honouring him and help put a smile on their faces, then it's nice to do that. A few of the family and friends were waiting to take photos of me in the T-shirt during the warm-up, so I ran over to where so they could get a decent picture. I also know that the fact that we picked up three points against Blackpool that night would have cheered up his family and friends.

All of our soldiers show immense courage in their line of duty and it's sad to hear about the losses, not only of British soldiers, but all of those who are wounded or killed in war. The Football League is now supporting Help for Heroes as their nominated charity this season and I think that's a really good move. Sheffield Wednesday's Help for Heroes game will take place against Leicester on 6 March, another game in which we will recognise our armed forces. Many servicemen are football fans as well, so it's nice when TV shows like Soccer AM recognise our soldiers, airmen and naval officers. A lot of footballers and fans watch that programme and I know those things go down really well with the families of those on service abroad.

What we can do is only a little gesture in the grand scheme of things but hopefully it helps the troops and their families.

Sheffield Wednesday pay tribute to Liam Riley
The Owls pay an emotional tribute to Liam before the match

Another gesture that our club has made in the past year has been giving the shirt sponsorship to The Children's Hospital in Sheffield. Sheffield Wednesday became the first club in the League to do this and we have helped The Children's Hospital Chairty raise £75,000 in the past 12 months, which will help them buy some state-of-the-art equipment to treat kids from around the country.

Nearly every team visits their local hospital before Christmas and gives out presents to the kids so that is really nice. Sheffield Wednesday seem to have taken that a step further, and we try to do as much as we can for The Children's Hospital. We have donated money from every replica shirt sold - and that alone has raised more than £20,000 for them. I also decided that the fee from this blog should go to The Children's Hospital - it's not a big gesture from me but anything that helps put a smile on the kids' faces has to be a good thing.

I know the kids appreciate it, too, because you can see the look on their faces when a player walks in wearing the Sheffield Wednesday tracksuit. We might be their heroes, so it's good to give something back. If it helps them in any way in their recovery, or to lift their spirits, then that is great and it's very rewarding for us, too.

It's a privilege for us to have hospital logo on our shirts and it's a great gesture from a club as big as Sheffield Wednesday. Hopefully, it will start the ball rolling with a few other clubs because it has been a really positive experience for both parties.

Back to the football side of things, we have a rare Saturday off this weekend (we were set to play West Brom but they're still in the FA Cup) but two big home games next week - a South Yorkshire derby against Doncaster on Tuesday and then Ipswich on Saturday. They are two other teams in the relegation battle and we have to keep focused and work hard to get the results we need.

Nothing has been achieved yet and there's still a lot of hard work to be done between now and the end of the season. The target is about 53 points, we are still some way off that but we want to get to that as soon as we can.

Hopefully we can keep the momentum from Tuesday's 2-0 win over Blackpool. We were 1-0 up at half time thanks to a James O'Connor header and then your hero and mine, Darren Potter, stepped up with a fine second goal early in the second half - and guess what, no tache! Potts has been in brilliant form and deserved to top his performance off with a great finish. Who knows, maybe the razor will remain in use for the remainder of the season and he could finish as top scorer! It was obviously a team performance, though, and we never really looked like conceding so we will be trying our best to perform in that vein for every match.


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