Football: Wednesday to attack Germans

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BY AN unfortunate coincidence, which the Foreign Office could have avoided, the Queen's arrival in Germany clashed with Sheffield Wednesday's. Judging from the excitement, Her Majesty will do much to restore Anglo-German relations while the Owls are set upon putting another one, following Leeds and Celtic, across the Germans.

They meet Kaiserslautern tonight in the first leg of their second round Uefa Cup tie and although they are a long way from full strength, with five senior players unavailable, they are brimming with confidence and anticipation. As always in football, it has much to do with recent form.

Kaiserslautern are having an indifferent season. Champions in 1991, they collected only five points from their first six matches this season, are below half-way in the Bundesliga, and lost last Saturday, 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen, the third-placed team. Their defence is tight but they are not scoring sufficient goals.

But, as Trevor Francis puts it: 'We respect German teams, they respect us.' Kaiserslautern is a pleasant provincial city in the Saarland, overshadowed by a giant US Air Force base but, as with Ipswich, the local fans like to make themselves heard. 'We know we will have to cope with an Anfield-type atmosphere,' Francis said.

The player-manager is one of the five unavailable - the others being Jemson, Shirtliff, King and Nilsson - and will wait until after a light training session this morning before naming his team. Three of Saturday's winning side have slight knocks but are expected to be fit and both David Hirst, who played for an hour on Saturday, and John Sheridan, who has managed 45 minutes in the past six months, could be sitting on the bench.

Francis is clearly thinking of keeping his versatile defender Paul Warhurst in his attack: 'I have been encouraged by the way he has responded.' Warhurst is invaluable in this situation in that he is capable of playing front, middle or back roles and can adapt to whatever emergencies arise.

Wednesday's players have seen the Germans on film, the assistant manager, Richie Barker, has watched them live, and Francis summed up the report thus: 'They would seem to be a home team. Their away form is poor but we shall have to play well to hold them tonight.'

After Britain's freezing fog, Saarbrucken put on an autumnal display when Wednesday arrived 20 minutes late, after a quick-footed recovery, one player having boarded the coach without his passport.

Wednesday are in good spirits, a projection of the positive personality of Trevor Francis. Other British clubs would have arrived here praying for 0-0; Francis gives the impression that while he would be satisfied with that scoreline he also wants his team to strut their stuff.