Chris Brookes previews this Sunday’s Steel City derby and looks back at its history.
Familiarity breeds contempt and there’s no two clubs who echo that sentiment more strongly than Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United. This Sunday at Bramall Lane will be the 126th competitive meeting between the two sides and the burning desire to be victorious is as strong as ever. There are many great derbies in world football, wonderfully unique in their own way, but to fans of the Owls and the Blades nothing truly comes close to this fixture. You have to experience it for yourself first hand to understand what a pressure cooker it is, the sheer ferocity of the baying crowd each time the opposition touch the ball and the unbridled joy when it’s your team who get the advantage.
Of the 125 meetings, United have won 45 and Wednesday have won 41. The Blades embarrassed The Owls with their largest winning margin of 7-3 in 1951, while all Wednesdayites are familiar with the ‘Boxing Day Massacre’ of 1979. The aforementioned win for Wednesday was a Third Divison game, as this Sunday’s will be of course, and the 4-0 home success is sung about loudly and proudly to this day. Ian Mellor, Terry Curran, Mark Smith and Jeff King were the goalscorers that day, Curran even turning his hand to releasing a song which is still synonymous with that game and with any other time in which ‘the Wednesday, United lose’.
There have been other notable clashes. Another favourite of the blue and white half is the 1993 FA Cup semi-final success at Wembley where Chris Waddle and Mark Bright were the Owls heroes in a 2-1 extra-time win, Alan Cork having levelled for the Blades. If you haven’t guessed by this point by my slight leaning towards mentioning Wednesday victories, I am an Owls fan and like all of us I have many derby day memories (although I’m only 21). The joy of Marcus Tudgay’s goals in two separate victories in 2008 and 2009 instantly come into my thoughts, the second of these to seal a win at the Lane and to complete a historic league double – the first in 95 years. Conversely, I can still hear the ripple of Michael Tonge and Lee Williamson’s free-kicks hitting the back of the Kop net at Hillsborough in 2006 and 2010, and that horrible second or so delay before I heard the away fans at the Leppings Lane end celebrating. Also who could forget the chants of ‘there’s only one Bryan Robson’ from Wednesday fans revelling in the plight of United and their manager with the score 2-0 in our favour in January 2008? There are so many more, good and bad.
Form-wise things are extremely positive for Wednesday going into Sunday’s game, we have won the last four matches in League One and are 2nd with 25 points from the opening 12 games. Our neighbours are 7th with 20 points but have played a game less than us. Richard Cresswell has played for both clubs, and featured in the last meeting where Owls winger Jermaine Johnson was admittedly fortunate to escape punishment for an elbow on him which resulted in a gaping head wound for the ex-SWFC striker. Of course the Blades manager now is former Wednesday gaffer Danny Wilson, not well remembered for his days in charge at Hillsborough but certainly well thought in S6 for his playing days in a successful side of the early 90s. Suffice to say memories of Wilson’s midfield displays for us are well and truly on the backburner for this game as he leads the bitter enemy. On our side, defender Danny Batth on loan from Wolves played just one game for United in a 2010 loan spell so will be eager to show them what they missed out on.
The anticipation is colossal, there can be little argument that a game of this magnitude does not belong in League One or even the Championship if we’re honest, it is Premier League. Sadly it was the 1993/94 season when the Steel City derby was last a top level game. It baffles me slightly that the television have not picked this one up, all I can say is it is their loss as this is compelling viewing to say the least. The away contingent have sold out their allocation and over 11,000 have booked their place for the sold out beamback at Hillsborough. The nerves as a supporter are unbelievable so I can only imagine what the game is like to play in. Wednesdayites are rightly in buoyant mood after current results although the cliché that always gets brought up is ‘form goes out the window’. Richard Cresswell and Chris Porter are the top scorers for United with four each, whereas our own Gary Madine has ten (it feels great to say that). That said, it would be foolhardy in the extreme of me to dismiss how difficult this will be, I know what a challenge we face to bring the three points home. It promises to be a great spectacle, for me you can keep your Premier League games this weekend, this is the only one that matters to us! Come on Wednesday!
You can follow Chris on Twitter @chris_brookes or check out his superb football and muisc website athttp://beatsandrhymesfc.com/