Darren Moore is hoping Sheffield Wednesday can continue their unbeaten run and pull off a giant-killing at Newcastle United this weekend. The 48-year-old, who last week completed 100 games in charge of the Hillsborough side, has guided Wednesday to second place in League One with eyes firmly on promotion.
Moore will take inspiration from Cambridge United’s 1-0 giant-killing of the Magpies this time last year when Joe Ironside’s strike sent Howe’s side crashing out the FA Cup. Unbeaten in 13 games and 14 clean sheets, Moore’s squad is bristling to give a good account of themselves when they take on Eddie Howe’s high-flying side in front of a sold-out Hillsborough at tea time on Saturday.
They had an impressive 2022, amassing 97 points across the calendar year and scoring 104 goals in all competitions, indeed only Manchester City outscored them across the top four divisions.
Monday’s comprehensive 5-0 victory over Cambridge has done little to dampen the excitement building in the Steel City, although Moore has typically tried to downplay expectations. ‘My focus is with Sheffield Wednesday, what happens elsewhere is not our concern,’ said Moore. ‘We are just focused on making sure we give the best version of ourselves.
‘I just want to say thank you because everybody has played a part in that record and figures,’ Moore added. ‘It’s been a wonderful calendar year but we want to continue in the same vein in 2023. Moore’s experience and calm persona has paid dividends, particularly with the man-management work he has put in with striker Michael Smith.
‘It’s nice to be in the top two, it’s where we want to be. Am I happy with that? Yes. Am I satisfied with that? No. Why? Because we can get better, we have to get better as the season goes on and the way to do that is hard work on the training ground and taking that work into games.’
The 31-year-old had been struggling in front of goal before Christmas with a four-game goal drought but a pep talk from Moore before their game with Port Vale last week revived his confidence. He scored two against Vale then added another brace against Cambridge to take his season’s tally to 11. The Wallsend-born forward is now relishing the prospect of an FA Cup clash against his boyhood club Newcastle.
‘l had a chat in the week, me and Smudger, where I said this is your time to score. I didn’t predict that he’d score two though!’ Moore laughed. ‘I’ve never managed to get to St James’ Park as a player plenty of times as a Newcastle fan. It would be lovely to before I retire.’
Smith, who came through the famous local Boys Club that produced talents such as Alan Shearer and Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick, said: ‘The Cup magic is still there for me. I remember watching it as a kid with my dad, finals at the old Wembley and at Cardiff. It was a rite of passage, coming from where I’m from [being part of the Boys Club]. I never had a trial at Newcastle, but I’m not bitter or anything!