I BELIEVED IN JACK. - Peter Shaw
Early December, 1979, African Bush, Zambia. Decision made. We'll fly home for Christmas and New Year and I'll go and watch the Sheffield derby. Us vs the Blades in the Boxing Day showdown. I sensed a tingle of excitement in anticipation; I believed in Jack, believed in his ability to turn our season around and overcome the Blades who were riding high whilst we were languishing towards mid - table. I had to be there!
Flew home but couldn't get a ticket. The only time ever that I just went to the ground on the day without a ticket to just soak up the pre-match atmosphere and enjoy the occasion. Loads of fans walking to the match, no Corporation buses provided, many of our fans were fearful as most people not connected to Wednesday, were predicting a United victory. I felt strangely confident, almost galvanised by the cockiness of the Blades fans, speculating how many they would beat us by. I felt sure this could be a turning point for us. I believed in Jack.
The match kicks off, lots of people running to get in for the K.O. I walk around the back of the Kop and the South Stand, listening to the crowd roar, lots of oohs and aahs, the old lady was rocking, 49,309 inside the ground, a record for the third tier of English football.
The oohs and aahs made a deafening sound and almost half an hour in, the stadium emitted a crescendo of sound as Andy McCulloch had a header cleared off the line. And then 9 minutes later it happened! The stadium seemed to explode with noise and jubilation and there was no doubt we had scored. Spider (Ian Mellor) had scored and the thought of winning made my heart beat fast and took my breath away. Just before half-time there were different sounding ooh and aahs, a deeper noise, one of fear and trepidation, as Boulder tipped a Bourne shot onto the bar and McPhail blasts the rebound at Bolder. Soon after, the half-time whistle goes and I skip with nervous joy. I believed in Jack.
In the second half the crescendo of noise and excitement continued unabated. Then 18 minutes after half-time the crowd exploded into a "wall of noise", Terry Curran had scored a diving header and the noise had hardly subsided before Curran crossed the ball for Jeff King to make it 3 - 0.
My hopes and dreams were bearing fruit and I jumped, shouted, chanted and banged the gates with sheer joy. Soon after a steward opened one of the gates and let me in. I stood at the back of the open Kop, one foot in the aisle. It was a beautiful feeling, the atmosphere was electric, unrivalled, we knew we were going to win and when Spider played in Curran who was brought down for a penalty by their goalkeeper, we celebrated knowing victory was secure. Mark Smith stepped up at the Leppings Lane end, to send the keeper the wrong way and put the ball in the top corner. It was perfect, the icing on the cake.
And so it began....."and we will fight for ever more because of Boxing Day." What a day, what memories, I believed in Jack!
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