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After a four week break, it’s back to Hillsborough and therefore a return for Get With the Programme –and for the third game in a row it’s against one of our near rivals, this time those cultured and eloquent folk from up the road in Barnsley.
For this edition, we’re going back exactly 11 years and 2 weeks to Saturday 14th October 2006, to an Owls side struggling early in the 2006/07 Championship season, and a Barnsley side fresh from success in the League One play-offs the previous season.

In fact, as Paul Sturrock pointed out in the opening paragraph of his programme notes, Wednesday had hit the bottom of the division before the international break that preceded this game, with only one win from their opening 10 (a 2-1 win at Plymouth back in August).
Sturrock was bemoaning the number of injuries the team had suffered in those first ten games, and came out with the phrase all football managers must be contractually obliged to use in these situations : “our season begins here and now”. In some ways that was true, but not quite in the way Paul was expecting…..

The Owls manager was also in a quandary as to whether to take on triallist Sofiene Zaaboub, a left-sided player who had recently played in a couple of reserve games. Paul’s main problem was that “we are at the top of our budget and have Hillsy back and Woody and Gilly nearly ready, so there is a lot to the think about” Starting with how to come up with better nicknames for your players perhaps? Zaaboub didn’t get the contract in the end, but became Sturrock’s first signing when he joined Swindon later in the season. According to Wikipedia he has now “become renowned for wearing gloves regardless of the weather conditions”. Quite the maverick it appears.

Turning the page from the manager’s notes sees the ever cheery face of Dave Allen, with his chairman’s column focusing on the annual accounts for 2005-06. Exciting stuff if, like me, you’re an accountant, but probably deathly dull for the rest of you. Nevertheless, it still makes interesting reading and is a stark reminder of where we used to be financially. Allen’s notes make reference to “staff…..have been cut to an absolute minimum” and the necessity of redeveloping the training ground to “transform our position from one where are continually on the precipice to one from which we can move forward with confidence”. Another painful reminder of how things were not that long ago, when our greatest hope for the future lay in the hands of the local Council and a supermarket chain – and all to reduce (not eliminate) The Debt.

Ah yes, The Debt. Looking back on it now everything was about The Debt. Dave liked talking about The Debt – and I seem to recall there were huge threads on Owlsonline all about The Debt. Like an evil dragon in a mythical tale, nobody really understood where it had come from, or whether it would ever leave, but we all knew that The Debt was in charge and you couldn’t argue with it. The only way to get rid of The Debt was for a knight in shining armour (or, as Dave put it less poetically “an oligarch”) to ride in and slay it with a truckload of cash. Or, as it turned out, a winding-up petition, some debt restructuring and a quid, but that was still a few years away…….

At the end of his column, Dave was keen to point out that Paul Sturrock was contracted to the club until 2010, stating “there was never any question about whether we would offer Paul a new contract” and was happy that “scurrilous media rumours have been put to bed”. And to prove just how scurrilous these rumours were, Sturrock was to last a whole four more days, getting the boot after a 4-0 defeat at Colchester in midweek.
The feature interview was with Drew Talbot, at the time still a rising star in the ranks and a part of a strike force that also featured Deon Burton, Marcus Tudgay, Steve MacLean and, er, Barry Corr. Drew had of course written himself into SWFC legend by scoring THAT goal in Cardiff, but it promptly led to a 16 month spell on the sidelines with a back problem from which he had only just recovered.
In fact, there had been some talk during the previous season that Drew would have to retire from the game, described in the article as “scurrilous rumours”. Who knew that Dave Allen conducted the feature interviews for the programme?

Drew was keen to get his Wednesday career going again, but the imminent sacking of Sturrock turned out to be a bad thing for him, as Brian Laws clearly didn’t fancy him and he left the club for Luton later in the season. The club were to regret this a few months later as Drew followed the well-trodden path (in fact so well-trodden that it’s almost worn down to the bedrock) of ex-Owls scoring against the club by getting the winner for the Hatters at Kenilworth Road. And I think it’s fair to say there was no “OK lads, don’t celebrate too much, I used to play for this lot” from Drew, in fact he probably celebrated more than he did in the play-off final if I remember rightly.

There were a couple of references in the programme to the quality of the Owls’ youth set-up, with Club News stating that “the SWFC academy continues to prosper under the astute guidance of Sean McAuley” (who was to be caretaker manager within a week). Hopes were particularly high for centre-back Mark Beevers and Kosovan born winger Rocky Lekaj. Rocky, of course, never made it at Hillsborough and left for Norway in 2010 – possibly caught by a strong southwesterly as there wasn’t much to him to say the least.

Paul Sturrock also singled out 16-year-old Beevers for praise and, coincidentally, Mark was the subject of Q&A based regular feature “The Apprentice”. This included the usual amazing insights about the player in question, for example:
Usual pre-match meal : Weetabix
Favourite TV show : Bad Lads’ Army (remember that??)
Three people he would invite to dinner : Jennifer Ellison, Rachel Stevens and Holly Valance (well, he was a 16 year old….)

Mark also stated that the main area of his game he need to work upon was “change of pace”. Still working on that one then Mark……
Some of you may recall a recent edition of GWTP poked a bit of fun at the club for booking a Peter Kay tribute act. Well, clearly, the commercial department were still thinking this was a bit of a winner as, this time, bookings were being taken for a Christmas special with Chubby Spencer, apparently the UK’s number one tribute act to who else but Roy Chubby Brown. So, presumably, a less funny version of Brown, which sounds about as amusing as a bout of norovirus.

In opposition

Barnsley were managed at the time by Andy Ritchie, who had guided the Tykes to promotion in his first season as manager.
Their squad was full of household names such as Neil Austin, Martin Devaney, Nicky Wroe, Tommy Wright and, of course, Robbie Williams. Robbie was a Strong player who apparently had No Regrets about playing for the Tykes, but did have a tendency to sing when they were winning.
The programme highlighted Michael McIndoe as their star man, a particularly narky little git if I remember. It wasn’t long before he was off to Wolves, and he scored his first goal for his new club at Hillsborough later on in the season. Also in the squad was Paul Heckingbottom, who had joined Barnsley from Wednesday the previous season, another member of the 2005 play-off winning team.

The game

The Owls looked to be on their way to a comfortable win after Glenn Whelan gave us a 4th minute lead with a well taken free kick, and Heckingbottom then did his old club a favour by getting sent off in the 24th minute.
In typical Wednesday style, however, they made a seemingly simple task look incredibly difficult and the visitors inevitably equalised in the second half through Brian Howard.

Thankfully, the Owls did have some quality in their ranks, not least the left foot of Chris Brunt. It was his right foot that was to win the game though, with a fantastic volley from way out in injury time. It seemed the corner may have been turned for Sturrock, but that game at Colchester was only just around the corner.

Next up
Only a few days until the next game, against that lovely mob from Millwall. I feel a trip to the 80s coming on……

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Unread article 26/10/2017 at 20:19


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