The prospect of Sheffield Wednesday challenging for promotion this season looks at best a long-shot, but the Yorkshire club’s Socceroos midfielder Massimo Luongo believes in miracles.
Still on minus-seven points at the foot of the Championship after the 12-point penalty imposed for breaching spending rules, the only way is up for Garry Monk’s team.
Just how far up that might be is debatable, with survival mooted by some as a realistic expectation.
But don’t tell that to Luongo - he’s aiming for a play-off spot in what he claims is the most “wide open” Championship he’s seen in his 11 years in English football.
After four games and just five points so far going into Sunday’s (AEDT) visit to Birmingham City, climbing a sheer cliff face appears less daunting.
But Luongo, 28, isn’t buying into any “doom or gloom”.
“Making the play-offs, even from where we are right now, is definitely doable,” he told SBS The World Game.
“You just have to keep that consistency up. You look at the Championship this year and it’s more open than I’ve ever seen it.
“The teams that got relegated haven’t really invested and those who’ve come up haven’t really had a great start.
“And the teams that just stayed up, you’d probably expect them to be down there again.
“It’s a wide-open league and you couldn’t call who will go up and who won’t.
“It’s one of those years that even with the 12-point deduction there is still an opportunity there to do something really special if we can put a run together.”
Luongo believes if the Owls are within striking distance come the turn of the year, a January transfer window splurge might propel them into the top-six mix.
“Just wait, once Christmas hits and everybody knows roughly where they are, and how they can invest and stuff like that, if we are in a good position then we might be able to bring in some big players to help us,” he added.
“We all knew it was coming (the punishment), the debate was whether it would be last season or this season.
“We’ve come to terms with it and as soon as we came up for pre-season we had a big discussion about it and how as a team we’ll deal with it, and push on from there.
“In the changing room, it’s not all doom and gloom. Everybody is still quite optimistic because with the squad we have - while it’s a tough situation - we still feel we can have one of those seasons where we can make an impact and still try and get promoted.
“We know how hard it’s going to be and we’re all up for the challenge.
“Consistency is hard to find in the Championship because you play so many games with so many different styles.
“At Christmas last year we were flying, I think we were third in the table. But 2020 hasn’t been great for us - we didn’t win many games and had loads of injuries, I was injured for most of the season.
“I think this year we have more stability and like-minded players and a younger and more energetic squad, so that’s a good thing.”
Monk has deployed the versatile Luongo into a deeper-lying screening role this season to take advantage of his adaptability.
“If we play with a three I’m the one who sits behind the ball, who cleans up and starts the play off,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve had amazing games but what gets highlighted is my defensive work.
“It was the role I played as a youngster at Tottenham and also Ipswich on loan.
“I later progressed to a box-to-box player (at Swindon and QPR). But I like the responsibility right now where I can lead from behind a little bit.
“It was a challenge coming here - I was in my last year at QPR and the manager decided not to play me which is normal in football when you’re contract is running down.
“Sheffield Wednesday Is a massive club - and I’m glad to be part of things here. This is a huge football City.
“It was good to get out of my comfort zone and come to a place that wasn’t home for me.
“I think the boss has his trust in me. I’ve had that year now where I have felt my way into the club and believe I can be a bit of an influence now both on and off the pitch.”