Villarreal have flown to the UK for a match against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Our opponents: The Owls will be beginning another season in the English Championship in a week’s time, so this is their last friendly. (They have defeated NAC Breda and Lincoln City, lost to Mansfield Town).
Last season they finished mid-table, a disappointing result after qualifying for the promotion playoffs the preceding two seasons. Wednesday have mostly played in the Championship/second tier in recent years, but historically they’ve spent most of their history (they joined the league in 1892) in the first tier.
Their current coach is Jos Luhukay, a Dutchman who has a long coaching pedigree in Germany. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about their players; they do have a second striker, Fernando Forestieri, who spent a year at Malaga in 2009-2010, did the whole Genoa-Watford-Udinese loan thing, and came to Wednesday in 2015 for about €4m. Tom Lees is a centerback whom transfermarkt rates at €4.5m; everyone else is less. So, a team of grafters, but no real star power.
Hillsborough itself is destined to always be linked with the terrible events of April 15,1989 when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and 766 injured, some permanently. The ground is now all-seated, but the stand where the tragedy took place is still largely as it was except for the seats.
As for the name ‘Wednesday’, it’s an artifact of the club’s origins. It began in 1867 as the football-playing offshoot of a cricket club founded fifty years before, so named because Wednesday was the day the founding members of the club were off work. Amateur for many years, the club turned professional in 1888 and moved to its current ground (then called Owlerton Stadium, Owlerton being the suburb where it is) shortly after. Apart from the football team, Owlerton is also known for being the home of licorice allsorts—the Bassett factory is there.
They remain a well-supported club, once of the best outside the top flight, but I doubt we’ll see a huge crowd tomorrow. If any Villarreal fans do go, I highly recommend exploring around Sheffield, which reminds me a bit of Pittsburgh—built on hills so getting anywhere in a straight line is difficult, there are great views from the hills, and the steel mills have been replaced with a knowledge economy—in Sheffield’s case, two large universities.
Villarreal: We are bringing a team of 24 for this match. No Raba or Bonera, no Jaume Costa either (he picked up a niggle), and no Barbosa. I believe the others missing are Cheryshev, Roberto Soriano, Bruno, Trigueros and Javi Fuego.
How to watch: The match will be broadcast on Villarreal TV—go to the official website, click on the ‘live’ button (which should be blinking) and have at it. I don’t know if the team is providing commentary in Valencian, or if it’s just an video/audio feed with no commentary.