Many Wednesday fans will know of the history of the club post 1991… but this is my history, my Wednesday experience condensed into just under 1000 words. You will probably have already read a more in-depth review of the 90’s onwards, maybe not from a 21-year-old southerner’s point of view though…
3:00am, Sunday the 5th April, 1992, Harold Wood Hospital, Romford… a moment in history that has been invisibly engraved on the soul of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club unnoticed to all. I, Benjamin John Wier, was born and forever since have ‘cursed’ Sheffield Wednesday to its core.
Born 9 lbs 2oz, I was a rather large baby born into a loving family in Essex, with Wednesday residing in 3rd place in the then called First Division, seven points adrift of eventual league winners Leeds United. The previous year they had beaten Manchester United to win the League Cup at Wembley, 1-0. The Owls were fast becoming one of the most feared sides in the English game. How then have I, an Essex-born boy, come to scar one of the biggest clubs in English Football who ply their trade in Yorkshire?
Well, after being raised in a small village in North East Essex, the obvious teams to support would have been either Ipswich Town or Colchester United. My Sheffield-born father though had other ideas. He had lived in Sheffield for 20 years and was surrounded by a family full of Wednesday and Sheffield United fans. He was swayed by his Uncle to be an Owl and had experienced many of the clubs lows and further lows over the years, nearly seeing Wednesday relegated to the Fourth Division in 1976 even. But by 1992, he had a team to be proud of. Things were about to change though.
The year after I was born, Wednesday made it to the FA and League Cup finals; losing both to Arsenal… despite my age, my bad luck was already beginning to take effect. In the following years, the Owls slowly moved down the league table, finishing lower each season than the last. No cup finals, no European football and not a lot to cheer about. Wednesday was not a club in turmoil, but they had not reached the heights that were expected of them.
Black clouds were starting to form over S6 and at the age of seven, my Dad took me to my first ever game at Hillsborough against a Chelsea team going for the title at the end of the 1998/99 season. It was a clear ploy by my Dad to get me hooked to the Owls; yet the game ended 0-0 and I cannot say that I was captivated… yet. Two Saturdays later, my Dad and I returned to S6 to watch the Owls play host to Liverpool. A last minute goal from Richard Cresswell won Wednesday the game 1-0, my young mind was made up. I suspect though that even if we had lost, Wednesday would have been forced upon me anyway. This was unfortunate for both parties.
Ever since then, Wednesday have not finished above their 12th placed Premier League standing, a clear sign of my ‘curse’. The following season, the Owls were relegated to the 2nd tier of English football five points adrift of safety. Three seasons later, they were consigned to the 3rd tier after another relegation. I had only supported the club for four whole seasons and already they had been relegated twice. A League Cup semi-final defeat to Blackburn Rovers in 2002 the only thing to even consider shouting about.
Fast forward to 2005 and finally, thanks to Sir Paul and his motley crew, I could bask in some form of glory for the first time in my Wednesday ‘career’ as we were promoted back to the Championship. For me, going to the Millennium stadium with over 40,000 other Wednesday fans is the best it’s really ever got (and the Wycombe game of course). The day will forever live long in the memory… but for a large group of supporters, they were used to a much bigger stage than that of the League One play-off final. Just over a decade before they were witnessing John Sheridan putting Manchester United to the sword at Wembley. Despite playing a blinder in Cardiff, Craig Rocastle is a bit of a come down.
Being promoted from League One is something I have experienced twice now. Who would have thought that they would have been Wednesday’s biggest achievements back then when Nigel Pearson was lifting the League Cup in the capital all those years ago? I suppose I’m lucky in the fact that my expectations of Wednesday are a little less than that of a longer suffering Owls fan. Debating whether Jermaine Johnson or John-Paul McGovern should play on the right wing in my best Wednesday XI is a bit different to that of ‘Chris Waddle or Chris Waddle?’. Longer-serving Owls fans… just remember when you’re groaning about how good you used to have it, that some of us have only ever witnessed players such as Enoch Showunmi and David Graham don the Wednesday shirt and that they’re the kind of players we have come to expect at Hillsborough.
Are there worst supporting ‘careers’ than this? Of course, you only have to look at teams such as Leeds, Portsmouth and Bradford over the past decade to see that many have fallen harder than Wednesday. I’ve seen my club promoted twice, do the double over the Blades and reach a League Cup semi-final to name but a few successes. At the risk of being greedy and intentionally forthright about it though, I am just longing for the good old days to return (like the rest of us)… the days of cup finals and internationals playing for the club, I want to experience it too. Will that happen soon? I can’t see it within the next decade at least but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a taste of it in my lifetime, which would thus disprove any ‘curse’ I have on the club I love.