Preview: Wednesday`s Regeneration Quest
“Hi, ho, Sheffield Wednesday,
Anywhere you go, well baby,
I see my sun shining,
I won`t make a fuss – though it`s obvious”
Supporters` song, to the tune of Jeff Beck`s ‘Hi, Ho, Sliver Lining.`
Sheffield’s history characterises British football`s seesaw on a slideshow to long-term regeneration
Amid the gauntlet of Colchester United`s hectic fixture schedule, as this week promises a gruelling three Championship ties in the space of just six days, comes tonight`s away clash against 13th placed Sheffield Wednesday.
Such congestion will land a hefty charge, and on at least two counts. One physically (affecting those playing) and the other financially, incurred by fans when surreptitious subtractions, performed by the ticket office, befall back-pockets everywhere.
Assuming football`s knockout-hit leaves you punch-drunk and besotted enough to make a mid-week trip from Essex, up toward the M1 and across the A 36, you will be hurtling toward a spot on our Isles that perhaps unwittingly characterises a cathartic balance of both past and present within life`s modern culture.
This union produces an almost indelible image, practically branded onto the consciousness of anyone who has followed the winding path of Pele`s Beautiful Game for any length. But I am not referring here to the contrast between Sheffield`s now defunct steel works, still embellishing the rolling Yorkshire countryside, and pubic fascination with fleeting pop-sensation Artic Monkeys.
Scenery forming the backdrop behind this game, instead, comes courtesy of 1989`s events on the Hillsborough terraces, where the deaths of 96 people, due to a crushing at Wednesday`s ground, caused the club to become synonymous with one of the most tragically defining moments in English football.
Ironically, of course, it happened during a game contested by Liverpool and Nottingham Forest; two strictly non-Yorkshire based sides.
The point is that, sadly, the club still bares the legacy of that crushing in the Leppings Lane enclosure, the end at which up to 3,700 of Colchester`s faithful will occupy during tonight`s match.
Hillsborough is a ground that has yielded so much good fortune for those from the flats lands of East Anglia in recent times – the last time United lost to Wednesday was before the disaster, in 1980. The teams have met in a further four fixtures since.
A fresher event, however, is shaping the second part of a common perception, which shows Wednesday as a team are forced to sit in the long shadows of their own elongated history: The elevation of neighbours Sheffield United to the Premiership.
To understand the ire that the Wednesday half of the City currently feels, you only have to recall the not-so distant past when the blue-half of Manchester City watched open-mouthed, from the old Division One, as United`s red-half perfored a routine collection of every medal going, during the Premiership silverware sweepstake in the 1990s.
Not that Wednesday exactly endured their worst footballing spell during the Hillsborough era, as an incident that sent people flooding back to the cricket pitches of Sheffield.
Their bleakest days were endured in the 1970s, when, following a bribe scandal involving some members of the squad, on-field play had suffered enough to case relegation to the old Third Division.
One fan was so crest-fallen that he emigrated, saying: “I`ve torn up my rosette in disgust, burnt my scarf and given my rattle away – there`s nothing to keep me here.”
Nor are folk enduring it now, under manager Brian Laws. The former Scunthorpe boss, appointed in the wake of a four-nil hammering at Colchester’s Layer Road earlier this season, has engineered a spot of relative release, even if this fixture will act as just another microscopic slice on Wednesday`s slideshow to regeneration.
Newfound optimism buoys a club that has had also to endure a top-flight relegation (2000/2001), and who carry an such an obsession with the past, that it sometimes sees them stop enjoying the game. That said, the Owls have won three league titles, three FA Cups, but their League Cup triumph is their only major trophy since World War II.
Wednesday did reach both domestic cup finals in 1993, but lightening struck twice – they were snuck by Arsenal, 2-1, each time.
Since then, the club has been demoted from the Premiership, and fallen still further; down another spiralling rung of the League ladder – into League One – in 2003 (before bouncing hurriedly back by 2005).
This season, however, Wednesday have been linked with an ex-Laws player, Billy Sharpe, whose 25 goals for Scunthorpe have seen them set League One alight, where they are currently top.
Sheffield Wednesday also recently harboured audacious dreams of a play-off position of their own; until current from took hold, producing only one win in six.
Dare it be said, then, as tonight`s opposition proved by their resurgence under Laws, (after appearing as dead-certain relegation candidates) that the Championship division is made for mini-sagas?
It allows football`s success-failure conundrum, played out under the stadium lights over a 46-game marathon, to reverse, alter and change, all in the space just one season.
Look at Sunderland`s rise this season, as the most convenient example. Six months ago, before Roy Keane brought some stability, the Black Cats were perilously second from bottom, but have now come galloping at the sunset stage. At this final hurdle, Sunderland are the people`s favourite, as a dark horse, to seize the crown.
Mark you – with those in Sheffield, and Colchester, claiming that the 7:45 kick-off is there for the winning – this evening`s match will probably end in a draw.
Preview: Wednesday Recognition Quest
Preview: Wednesday`s Regeneration Quest