Why underdog Carvalhal is the perfect fit for an unfancied Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal

The previously unknown Portuguese has the Owls on the brink of the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos CarvalhalSheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal

As Sheffield Wednesday began their search for a new manager this time last year, expectation at Hillsborough was unusually high.

Wednesday, a genuinely big club who had barely caught whiff of the Premier League since exiting in the first year of the new millennium, were daring to dream again.

A new owner was readying an injection of serious funds for the first time in close to two decades and promised top-flight football by the club's sesquicentennial in 2017.

Big-name former Premier League bosses Sam Allardyce, Paul Lambert and Gus Poyet were among the favourites for the job, but when the new man was eventually unveiled in late June, it was met with underwhelment, in most places, and that all-too-familiar feeling of pessimism returned.

As it turned out, in Carlos Carvalhal, one of football's perennial underdogs, they had found the perfect fit.

At the height of his playing career, Carvalhal turned out briefly for FC Porto, one of Portugal's Três Grandes, wedged between spells at less fashionable sides like Chaves, Tirsense and Espinho.

It was at such clubs (Espinho were one, in fact) that the 50-year-old made his first foray into management, but a spell at third-tier Leixões was where his career began to take off.

Down on their knees after relegation the previous season, Os Bébés' fortunes were completely transformed by Carvalhal, who took them to second in the standings (though this did not result in promotion) and somewhat more impressively, the final of the Portuguese Cup.

Though his side went on to lose 1-0 against another of the Três Grandes, Sporting Clube de Portugal, Carvalhal left them in the Uefa Cup, having sewn the seeds for promotions in two of the proceeding five seasons.

With new club Vitoria Setubal, Carvalhal delivered promotion to the top flight, before returning three years later via Belenenses, Braga and Beira-Mar to guide them to the Portuguese League Cup, where he exacted revenge on Sporting in the final.

Subsequent short spells in charge of Leões and Turkish giants Besiktas failed to enhance his reputation. But Carvalhal's skillset was always better suited to those with reduced expectations.

Picture Supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** 2010-03-11T201331Z_01_ACO16_RTRIDSP_3_SOCCER-EUROPA.jpgCarvalhal during his Sporting days

Despite their stature - as England's 14th most successful club, above Leeds United, in terms of trophies won - Wednesday are traditionally at their best when carrying the underdogs tag.

They remain the last club to win a major trophy while playing outside the English top flight, beating Manchester United in the Rumbelows Cup 25 years ago, while the back-to-back titles they secured in 1929 and 1930 followed a 14th-placed finish the previous year.

At the start of this season, many anticipated another flirt with Championship's bottom three, and even after securing their place in the top six, few outside of the Steel City backed the Owls to reach the final - let alone go up.

But Carvalhal, whose team have also swept aside Newcastle and Arsenal this term, is the master of managing expectations.

Throughout the campaign, he has, quite impressively, managed to swerve all invitations to discuss the 'p' word (promotion), charming those who dared to ask with musical metaphors and subtle mispronunciations of words like probably (emphasis on the 'a'), (h)energy and opposition (opposites).

You don't need long in his company to work out why Chansiri picked him, or why he is so well-liked among the Wednesday players and staff.

Carvalhal's first season in England draws to a close this Saturday, when the Owls' status will be determined one way or another. Few will fancy them as a Premier League outfit, while the arrival of Newcastle, Aston Villa and Norwich ensures they'll be nobody's favourites should the worst happen at Wembley.

Both outcomes should suit Wednesday and their manager just nicely.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal celebrates after the gameCarvalhal acknowledges the travelling fans after securing the Owls' place at Wembley

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