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The excitement, the anticipation, the suspense, the nerves……..yep, you’re finally going to find out which choice I’ve made for this very special edition of Get With the Programme.

Well, I say special edition, I’m not doing a bumper multi-game special or owt like that, I’m not made of time. But hopefully this game will spark a few good memories for those of a certain vintage.

We’re going back to the 1993/94 season, Saturday 22nd January 1994 to be precise, and to this day the last top flight Sheffield derby. Of course, initially this was due to United’s ineptitude so let’s blame them for the fact that there haven’t been any Premier League derbies since.
Even the most partisan Blade would have to admit that Wednesday were a much better team at this point, but this was probably the last season when the Owls would really be considered a top team. In fact, at the start of this season two out of eight Match of the Day pundits had tipped us for the title. In typical Wednesday style we then proceeded to start the season with a seven match winless run, including not scoring in the first four, to firmly put said pundits in their place.

The front cover of the programme showed a photo from the Bramall Lane fixture earlier in the season, which finished in a 1-1 draw (Carlton Palmer scoring for Wednesday), a match that Nigel Pearson referred back to in his captain’s column as ‘a bit lack-lustre’. Or he may have been describing Bramall Lane itself, who knows.

As Trevor Francis pointed out in his column, since that game Wednesday had lost only twice in 20 games, whilst United had won only twice in 15. Trev then fulfilled his contractual obligation of using as many clichés as possible before a derby match:

-“We can never regard a Sheffield derby as just another game”
-“the form book invariably counts for nothing”
-“coming to Hillsborough gives United an extra lift”
-“Warnock’s a w****r”

OK, I may have made one of those up, but you get the drift. United’s manager was actually Dave Bassett, a man who created football so eye-bleedingly bad that he himself lost the ability to blink (seriously, watch one of this interviews if you don’t believe me).
The programme made several mentions of two recent cup victories : a Coca Cola Cup quarter final win at Wimbledon and an FA Cup third round replay win at Forest. These were the days when the League Cup was considered to be a bit of a speciality of Wednesday’s, but this season the Owls came unstuck big-time against Manchester United in the semi-finals.

Sandwiched in between those two cup games was a league defeat at Wimbledon, meaning Wednesday had the dubious pleasure of playing two games at Selhurst Park in front of three men and a dog in the space of four days. These games had a few slightly odd occurrences, not least both teams playing in different kits for each game, Wednesday sporting a natty all gold affair in the cup fixture, and a less natty white and black affair in the league. The second of these kits was probably best known for a televised game at Newcastle earlier in the season when, with the team’s home and away kits both potentially clashing with the hosts black and white strip, Wednesday decided to go with a new third kit of …..white and black. Genius.

Anyway, the league defeat saw the first ever goal for Wednesday for centre back Andy ‘Andy’ Pearce, signed the previous summer from Coventry. I’m sure I recall that Andy was previously a hod carrier in his non-league days, one of those professions that always seemed to be remarked upon when it appeared on a footballer’s CV. It basically marked out the particular player as being somewhat agricultural, and Andy was of course no exception. For those unsure by the way, a hod is described as ‘a long-handled box used for transporting bricks’, so much like Andy himself then.
Amazingly, Pearce’s first goal was quickly followed by a second in the win at the City Ground, so surely the chances of him scoring for a third successive game must have been astronomical?

Another oddity was the fact that young Owls defender Brian Linighan made his debut in the cup game at Wimbledon, then his league debut in the other game at Wimbledon. I’m a bit of a sad old statto, and there’s something quite pleasing about this little factoid, surely there can’t be many players who played their first two games against the same team at the same ground??

For those who don’t remember Brian Linighan, which I guess will be everyone but Brian himself, he was of course the less talented brother of renowned cloggers David and Andy (who we don’t mention of course). Brian, normally a centre back, got his chance at right back following an injury to Roland Nilsson, but these were to be his only games in a Wednesday shirt as his career pretty quickly fizzled out. Francis obviously liked what he saw though, as it convinced him to replace the best right back in the world with a mediocre centre back when signing Peter Atherton the following summer.
“At Close Range with Alan Biggs” featured an interview with Nigel Jemson, who had recently had probably his best short spell for the club. Nigel had of course suffered a car crash a couple of years previously, but was willing to admit that there were other reasons for his poor form at Hillsborough. Biggs described Jemmo as previously being “too brash to know what was good for him”, while the man himself admitted “there are times when I need to be brought down a peg or two” and “I’m the type who speaks his mind”. Obviously a real popular character in the dressing room then.

The opposition

Now I know none of us really like to talk about that lot from across the city but let’s just linger on the sheer quality of their team from these Premiership days. A quick glance at their squad list reveals such footballing legends as Paul Rogers, David Tuttle, Paul Beesley, Alan Cork, Andy Scott and Mitch Ward (who I seem to remember was a particularly snidey little so and so).
Also in the ranks was another legend by the name of Jamie Hoyland, a man with such a shocking reputation that even today one can walk around Hillsborough and hear people staring at their phones muttering ‘not that bloody Hoyland again’. At least, I assume that’s who they’re talking about anyway…….

United’s squad was of course to prove it’s mettle at the end of the season with a heart-breaking – no wait, that’s not the phrase I’m looking for – hilarious last day relegation, with Mark Stein sending them down in the last minute of the season. Stein immediately wrote himself into the SWFC hall of fame despite never playing for the club, a position he of course holds alongside Carlos Tevez.

The game

After a tight opening period, Wednesday were to prove their superiority with a quick-fire three goal salvo. Mark Bright opened the scoring with his 8th in 10 games, paving the way for that man Pearce to firmly cement himself as a bona fide ‘cult hero’ (i.e. he’s not that good but we like him) with a crashing header. Gordon Watson nodded home the third to give Wednesdayites the rare luxury of actually being able to sit back and relax in a derby match.
With a minute to go, Dane Whitehouse scored a penalty for the Blades to annoyingly make him the last player to date to score in a top flight Sheffield derby. But no matter, we’re still the last to win one and maybe there’ll never be another? (not because we won’t get there of course).
Next up
Once again it’s a big local rivalry, as we visit a programme from a fixture with everyone’s favourites Leeds United. Hmmm, where do I go with that one?

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Unread article 22/09/2017 at 06:27


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