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GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - BRISTOL CITY

GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - BRISTOL CITY

After another gap between home games, we welcome Bristol City to Hillsborough for only our second Saturday 3pm home game of the season. For this edition of Get With the Programme, we are going back to the Saturday 28 February 2004, with the Owls in the Second Division of the Nationwide League for the 2003-04 season.

I think it’s fair to say that this was not exactly a great season. In fact, it remains the club’s lowest league placing since the 1970s, and was to end with the spectre of Ken Bates, black balloons and a general feeling of mutiny in the fanbase that I don’t think we’ve ever fully shaken off.
The visitors arrived at the top of the league and on an incredible 11 match winning streak. Wednesday had started the season reasonably well but by this stage were in the middle of an injury crisis (which seemed to be the norm back in those days) and hovering in 13th place in the table, 7 points from the play-offs.

Firstly, I apologise to anyone who has suffered traumatic flashbacks after seeing the image of the front cover. That is, of course Ola Tidman, gamely clinging on to a water bottle without dropping it, and looking as nervous as he always did – although not half as nervous as the Wednesdayites watching him.

On the Wednesday before this game, Ola had reached what was probably the nadir of his time at the club as the Owls lost at home in the second leg of the LDV Vans Trophy northern area final (basically the semi final) to Blackpool. Tidman had a typically nervous night and was at fault for the visitors’ second goal, after which he was carried off on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask (to be replaced by 18 year-old Rob Poulter).
And if the thought of Ola Tidman isn’t enough to give you nightmares, keep reading…….

That Blackpool game was a particularly savage blow. After losing 1-0 in the first leg, there was real hope that the Owls could turn things around and reach the final at the Millennium Stadium. We all knew in the back of our minds that this was a real come-down for a club of our stature, but hey, when you’re down, you have to take your pleasures where you can.

Actually, while we’re talking about the LDV Vans Trophy, it always bothered me that LDV stands for ‘Leyland Daf Vans’ doesn’t it? So it was basically the Leyland Daf Vans Vans Trophy? Maybe I should just let it go………

Those who were on Owlsonline at the time will remember this was a particularly fun time, with Blackpool fans reminding us they had beaten us three times in the season – soon to become four – and generally being on the wind-up. The fact that we all knew our season was effectively over at this point made it all the harder to bear – these were not good times and some of the anger was starting to spill out.
In his programme notes Chris Turner highlighted the obvious disappointment of the Blackpool result, but was also bemoaning the aforementioned injury crisis. In the previous league game (a 2-1 win at Rushden & Diamonds, a team I still can’t believe we actually played), the club had a bench entirely made up of academy products – Poulter, Richard Wood, Lewis McMahon, Laurie Wilson and Liam Needham.
Turner was keen to point out that “we suffered two more injuries on Wednesday that look set to rule Ola Tidman and Kim Olsen out of this afternoon’s match”. Clearly, having two such influential players missing from the line-up was an absolute disaster…..

So, having recalled the qualities of Ola Tidman, let’s talk about Kim Olsen. In January, Turner had decided that Grant Holt was never going to make it, and needed to replace him with an unknown Danish striker with a goals record that even a full-back would have been disappointed with. It’s hard to know exactly what was going through Chris’s head when he made this decision, but Olsen proved to be, well, a bit of a disappointment to say the least.
I recall Kim’s debut coming on at Port Vale in a 3-0 defeat (a particularly dismal away day that one) and a few fans were singing ‘Olsen, Olsen, he’s the greatest Danish striker in the land’. I can safely say that is the one and only time I heard that song as, once we had seen him play, it was pretty clear that he was not the type of player who was going to get his own chant.

He left Hillsborough later in the year – pretty much as soon as Paul Sturrock was appointed – with a goals record at the club of precisely zero. I felt sorry for him in a way, as he was clearly not up to the standard of English league football – or football generally for that matter – and the boo-boys were not slow to get on his back. It’s funny how a few players are so bad that you almost feel sympathetic for them – I call them Beswethericks.
There was an interview with Kim in the programme where he set out his ambitions for his Wednesday career. It was also interesting to note that Kim ‘came into the game very late, only turning professional around 18 months ago’ (he was 25 when he joined the Owls). Thankfully though for Kim this meant that he had a background as a salesman : “I’m glad I did something else and always have that to fall back on”. And I suspect he probably has.
In the programme’s feature interview, the focus was again on youth, with up and coming striker Jon Shaw the subject. Jon had recently made his first team debut after being a regular scorer in the youth and reserve teams. He was keen to make an impression and was clearly aware of the sacrifices required to make it as a professional footballer : “As a young player, you have to sacrifice your nights out, it’s as simple as that”. So, a bit like Gary Madine really.

Jon never quite made it with Wednesday and was another player who Sturrock shifted out shortly after taking over. He went on to score quite a few goals at lower levels (mainly the Conference), but his Nuhiu-esque pace was what did for him in the end as far as his Owls career was concerned.
One small article in the ‘Wednesday Latest’ section congratulated ‘A Happy Couple’ who got engaged on the pitch at half-time in the previous home League game against Hartlepool. In this case, it was the bride (Sarah Siddall) who did the asking, with her other half James Morton on the receiving end. I remember it happening very well as, when the announcer started explaining what was going on, the crowd went quiet before one chap on the Kop shouted some sage advice to James : “RUN!!!”. Poor James didn’t really have anywhere to run to, but I hope they are still happily married today.

In opposition

As noted above, Bristol City were in an unbelievable run of form coming into this game, managed by the one and only Danny Wilson. Unsurprisingly after such a great run, they were not onlu top of the table but closing in on an all-time Football League record.
There were a couple of references (one from Turner) to Wilson ‘rebuilding his career’ at Ashton Gate, a reputation that we all know he sacrificed nobly a few years later with his fantastic undercover job at Bramall Lane.
Top scorer for the visitors coming into this game was a certain Lee Peacock, with 14 goals under his belt. Also in the squad was a young striker who had made 35 appearances, all as substitute, quite an impressive record – Leroy Lita.

The game

The league table and form book would seem to suggest an easy win for the visitors, but it didn’t transpire that way.
Someone in the changing room had obviously managed to persuade Kevin Pressman that he was playing against the Blades, as he had a fantastic game. In particular, big Kev’s first half save from a Tommy Doherty thunderbolt was probably one of the best saves he ever made – somehow clawing the ball out of the top corner at the Kop end when it looked like the ball had already gone past him.
Wednesday managed to gradually grow into the game, and as it went into injury time, the Owls won a throw-in down in the corner. Leigh Bromby launched it long into the box and Graeme Lee rose to nod a downward header into the bottom corner.
A great and frankly unexpected win for the Owls. Bristol City never quite recovered and in the end didn’t even make the play-offs (Wilson doing his magic again).

Next up
It’s our sort-of neighbours from Hull up next. I have two games in mind, let’s see which I decide to go for……

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Unread article 17/11/2017 at 06:42

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