Rough guide to
About this rough guide
How our predictions went
Rough guide to...Sheffield Wednesday
5 August 2003
Relationship with Division Two
The pain of Town's relegation last season was tempered, for not a few Mariners fans, by the good news that we were "going down with the Wednesday". Sheffield Wednesday, a 'massive' club, as we are endlessly reminded by the media (and their legions of fans, of whom more later) have seen dark days such as these before.
Relegated from the old Division One in 1970, Wednesday's fortunes teetered, tottered, nosedived, and plummeted throughout the whole of the seventies. After some narrow escapes they finally crashed into the old Division Three in the '74-75 season - and on more than one occasion thereafter came perilously close to sampling life in Division Four. The statistics roll off the tongue: 22 months without an away win, 21 points from 42 games, two goals in the last 17 matches...Wednesday acted like they were playing the football version of the old Monty Python Yorkshireman sketch - each low trying to outdo its predecessor, but still remaining eternally cheerful.
To complete the story, it took five years, Jack Charlton, and Terry Curran to get them out of the old Division Three. If you need cheering up some more, read The Dark Ages (1970-1980) on the official site.
In modern times, winning the League Cup in 1991, and coming second in both cups in 1993. Donkeys' years ago they won the FA Cup a few times, and the league title twice. The Owls have made the FA Cup semi-finals 16 times, but their champagne almost always seems to stay on ice.
The really big achievement, though, in this writer's humble opinion, is keeping such a huge base of loyal fans through thin and, now and again, thinner. This year they sold 13,000 season tickets before the end of July - up 20 per cent on last year - and already almost all of their ticket allocation of 3,000 for their first match in Division Two, away to Swindon. That is what you call loyal support.
Not too hard to work out really. They hate pretty much everyone. And pretty much everyone hates them. No, really. They don't look to make many friends outside their own ranks. And, yes, you can detect the slightest hint of a grudge against all the freeloaders, sulkers, and bally wastrels of the last five years or more; by which I mean most of the old Wednesday squad. A grudge borne by the Wednesdayites, but with which any honest football fan must have sympathy. No-one deserved that bunch of tossers.
I'm tempted to say "see Hartlepool United squad of 2002" and leave it at that. But they promised to pay me by the word, so let's talk first about who has gone from last season's huge squad (34+ - and that's just Pressman's waistline). Names to conjure with, names to gnash over - like Sibon and Maddix to mention but a couple. Good riddance, I hear you all say (Owls fans included). Wednesday have released about nine players in all, including the injury-blighted duo O'Donnell and Donnelly. Oh, and that donkey Tony Crane, who my spies tell me is twice the player these days, in a Mariners shirt.
So the senior squad has finally been whittled down to a manageable and more affordable number. Augmented by new signings Ola Tidman (ex-Stockport keeper) and the ageing Robbie Mustoe. Oh, and those three players from Hartlepool - Lee, Smith, and Gordon 'Flash' Watson. The latter sounds like Chris Turner's desperate last throw of the dice to end the goal famine. Kevin Pressman, of course, goes on forever; and more power, I say, to his ample elbow. Mr Kuqi is still there, as far as I know, despite some postured transfer sniffing from Ipswich.
The only other signing on the pre-season horizon may be a certain chap called Cooke. And as one Wednesday fan on their messageboard memorably sighed: "Terry Cooke...pah!"
Ola Tidman made the obligatory signing-on quote to the press a month or so ago, and put things neatly in perspective: "It's going to be a tough year".
Interesting name, long history, big ground, and fans to fill it. But they keep unpaid bills in the trophy cupboard nowadays, and it's overflowing. The latest financial 'get out of jail' card was to be the sale of the training ground ("pave paradise, and put up an Asda shop"). But that sale has just fallen through and so the chairman continues to dodge the bank manager's eye.
The Tony Butcher school of thought says that the call of "c'mon you Blues" will almost always be greeted with derision in every city in the land. And, I have to say, he's mostly right. Think of Man City, Everton, Birmingham, and so on - all usually in the shadow cast by more successful neighbours. In these bad times those blue striped Owls must sneak envious glances at the slickest Blades outfit for quite a while.
Averaging a new manager every 12 months for seven years on the trot takes some doing. But after Terry Yorath threw in the towel, the board started planning for the future - by hiring a Division Three manager. Initially presenting Turner as a bright young talent, with a squad of promising youngsters who just needed to be given a chance, the board conned the faithful into maintaining a glimmer of hope. But the subsequent relegation - followed by the close-season signing of a number of lower-league players - makes it look as if their ambition is to be Division Three champions in the 2004-05 season. Harsh words maybe, but unless those promising youngsters cease to be promising and actually start to deliver, the writing is on the wall.
In the grand scheme of things, yes they are. Sorry, but I just can't be arsed to misquote Michael Palin or anything.
How will they do?
The pundits say they will be there or thereabouts. I have trouble believing them, to be honest. Wednesday look weaker to me than last season, and the finances are still a mess. Chris Turner has a hell of a job on, and he appears to be calling for glass hammers and striped paint. The table at the moment is alphabetical, which puts the Owls in 19th place. About right? Hmm, maybe.
I found the official site quite good, although I was violently sick after reading their sycophantic tribute to that bloody monotonous band they drag around with them. Others include the obligatory Rivals affair (which is a bit thin to say the least), and the London Owls site.