The former Owls captain is showered and fresh as he takes the time to speak to us at the Hillsborough reception… He has just completed another 90 minutes on the hallowed turf of S6 and, unlike some others, still looks fit .
Now 38, the towering Dutchman looked very tidy after being asked to start in the heart of midfield but fell back into his familiar position as centre-back – where he played 150 times for the Owls – due to a few injuries elsewhere.
Brendan Wiredu: Sheffield Wednesday eye former Charlton Athletic midfielder…
“It was good to be back!” he told The Star. “It was good to see a lot of familiar faces and familiar ground… I had a great time here – I’ve played here the longest of my entire career – so yeah, it was nice to be back , and for a good cause like Bien.
“There were very good players on both sides, and even though the age is progressing, you could see the quality and it was a good watch for everyone.
“I said to Lee Bullen, you can see where the responsibility is in the dressing room – because all the centre-halves showed up!
“At the beginning we had seven centre-halves on the pitch, and me in midfield, but we are the leaders… It’s good to play these kinds of games, it means something, and I hope that we have raised money and that we can help them.” .”
And they raised funds, over £20,000, around £2,000 of which went to S6 in aid of Weston Park Cancer Charity and Real Top Praha in Pudil’s native Czech Republic – they also saw seven goals!
The overall experience brought back fond memories for Loovens, who spent almost five years in Sheffield, and he admits it is a city that will always be close to his heart.
“I liked playing here,” he said. “We had a good team and the football was good… Obviously we bonded with the fans, and I also met some lovely people outside of Sheffield football. It was a really enjoyable stay and I love coming back here.
“I think the fans here really want honesty and hard work, which I can really relate to – that’s how I was brought up, and when I got into football at Feyenoord , it’s the same. So I talked to the fans here.
“There was a mutual respect there, and things just clicked together for me.
“But like I said, it was also off the pitch. I met some great people, my daughter was raised here, so overall it was a great five years.
A girl brought up in Sheffield… Is there a hint of a Yorkshire accent in her Dutch?
“If you give her some time here, I’m sure she’ll speak Yorkshire!” he said with a smile.
Sadly, Loovens and that special team of 2016-18 didn’t get what they were chasing as they missed out on the Premier League in the play-offs – not once, but twice.
The former skipper obviously wishes things had turned out differently, but remembers a strong bond in the group at the time.
He explained, “I think the first year we played some really good stuff, and a lot of people didn’t expect us to get this far… Success was kind of planned for the following year, but we gelled so well – and the puzzle pieces fell naturally. It resulted in a very good year, even though we lost in the final.
“For the second year, we played more pragmatically. We got more points but the football wasn’t as good as the year before – everything was fine.
“Obviously that was another year where we didn’t have promotion as well, and the next year was a disaster. I think at one point we had about 14 regular players with injuries and it was hit after hit and we never started. All this resulted in the departure of Carlos.
“In a team, you always have people you get along with better than others, but we all got along very well – we did a lot of things outside of football with each other, and that helped. We had a strong bond, and that strengthened our bond on the pitch.
But what now for the former Celtic and Sunderland man? His cleats have been hanging up for a few years now, is a coaching stint planned?
“Right now I’m working for an agency, which I enjoy,” he says. “I do a bit of recruitment, but also a bit of follow-up with the players and talk to the clubs. I meet a lot of new people, I extend my network and I benefit from it. We’ll see what happens in the future, but I’m in the right place.
Hopefully he remembers his time in Sheffield when they end up with a young starlet in their books…
“There are always good players in Belgium and the Netherlands – we’ll see what the future holds!”
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This notice was published: 2022-05-22 16:00:00