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GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - CARDIFF

GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - CARDIFF

Well, it’s fair to say a fair bit has happened since the last edition of GWTP. New year, new manager, even a new formation, whatever next? You’ll be glad to hear, though, that there’s not much new about Get With the Programme, it’s the same old nonsense in 2018 as it was in 2017.
So, this time we focus on a game against the Bluebirds of Cardiff City. And there’s a strange thing to start with : the bluebird is never seen in Wales, in fact it’s not even seen in the UK – it’s native to North America and pretty much nowhere else. So why did they choose it as their nickname? Because they’re blue I guess……

I suppose it’s better than the other ‘nickname’ I heard when I took my 6-year-old son to his first away game at the creatively named Cardiff City Stadium back in September. The guy behind us, who I would have said had Tourette’s if he had had ever uttered a phrase that wasn’t a profanity, was quick to describe the opposition fans as ‘f***ing sheep sh***ing c***s’. Thankfully my lad didn’t seem to bat an eyelid at this seemingly inexplicable phrase. If he’d have asked it would have been a tough Dad job to explain those four words, even ‘sheep’ would have been pretty tricky.
Anyway, back to the job in hand. As one of those strange quirks of fate would have it, the last time we played at Bramall Lane on a Friday night, our next League game eight days later was against….you guessed it, Cardiff. So here we are on Saturday 26th September 2009, and early in a 2009-10 season that wouldn’t turn out too well for the Owls.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned derby match had not gone brilliantly for Wednesday, who were 2-0 down after 15 minutes, and 3-0 down at half time after a Lewis Buxton own goal (assisted by a blatant shove in the back if I remember rightly). The Owls were to make a game of it though, as first Marcus Tudgay volleyed a well-taken goal in the first minute of the second half, and Etienne Esajas blasted in a long-range free kick on 65 minutes. That was to be the end of the scoring though, and, as it happens, was the only defeat in our last five at the Sty.
Manager Brian Laws admitted that ‘it needed a rollicking at half time because it could have gone two ways. We could have been on the end of a drubbing or we could have restored pride for our fans. I am glad we did the latter…..’. Um, we still lost Brian, and I’m not sure too many Wednesdayites would have been showing their pride the following Monday morning at work.
One player who did do himself justice against the Blades was Dutch winger Esajas, who came on at half time. As Laws pointed out “Actions speak louder than words and Etienne Esajas’ actions screamed at me last Friday”. Sadly, for most of his Wednesday career, EE was a bit like the EE network around my house : intermittent, frustrating and very rarely fully functional. More on him later though…..

Turning the page from the manager’s notes, we find a two-page special by ‘The Chairman’ as Lee Strafford explained how the club was getting on nine months into his tenure, and the associated business plan that arrived with him. The basis of the plan seemed sound : “to provide a greater football budget through incremental increases in season ticket sales, matchday incomes and other revenue streams”. So, in other words, increase the income to allow for an increase in costs (i.e. player wages) to improve the team.

Nowt wrong with that so far, but the article started to reveal the potential flaws in the plan. Firstly, Lee revealed that there were 14,000 season ticket holders against 16,500 in the business plan, albeit with overall ticket and merchandise sales on budget. Secondly, the wage bill had already been increased regardless – presumably on summer signings Darren Potter, Darren Purse and Tommy Miller – with a table showing that the Owls had jumped from a wage bill of less than £6m to the ‘£6m to £10m’ bracket (although still nowhere near a certain Sheffield United apparently in the somewhat hard to pin down ‘£15m to £70m’ range). It’s easy to use hindsight of course, but one thing that was presumably not in the plan was relegation to League One……shudder.

The programme’s cover star and feature interviewee was Marcus Tudgay, the club’s top scorer in the previous season who had by then been with the club nearly 4 years. Now I don’t know about you, but I was a big fan of Tudders (or ‘Tuggy’ as I believe the players called him), his problem was he seemed to score in bursts. As he put it himself “when the goals come, they really flow”.

Tudgay had been the subject of much interest from Premier League new boys Burnley in the summer, and there were many fans who thought that his head had been turned. No surprise that Burnley were after him really, as he had scored four goals in two games against them the previous season, including one after only 40 seconds of the campaign against hapless keeper Diego Penny (I don’t half remember some useless stuff).
Sadly, knowing what was the befall Wednesday in this season, Marcus’s remarks seem somewhat ridiculous now : “ I wouldn’t have signed my contract if I didn’t think we could get into the play-offs. Things are looking up at this football club”. Well yes, something was definitely ‘up’, that’s for sure.
This season’s programme included a Q&A feature called ‘Home and Away’, where a player was asked about not only their football life (‘Home’) but their preferences away from the day job (‘Away’). The article came complete with two pictures – one of the player resplendent in their kit, the other in their ‘casuals’, trying to look both scruffy and trendy in that way that only footballers can do.
The subject for this particular edition was young goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell. Richard had yet to make his first-team debut, highlighted by answers such as his most memorable game being ‘probably when we played against Sheffield United reserves last season’. Other nuggets of indispensable information were that he wore an aftershave ‘by Usher’ (presumably the tuneless braggard from the world of R&B), drove a Vauxhall Astra (“I love that car”) and that the background on his phone was the iPhone logo. Of genuine interest is the fact that Richard had a tattoo of a Wednesday badge on his arm. Presumably, not only is that now out of date, but it must have gone down pretty well in Rotherham – maybe that was why they sold him. By the way, stat fans, O’Donnell is now onto his 14th club (including loan spells).
The ‘Fans Focus’ page saw a two fans – one a ‘celebrity’ (in this case, Milburn’s Joe Carnall), one just a ‘fan’ – answer a few simple questions. The ‘fan’ Eddie Hoyland gave an interesting answer when asked to name his favourite player in the current squad. Our Eddie picked a player whose ‘pace is outstanding and has a lethal shot’. I’ll leave you to guess the answer, but if you need a clue let’s just say he’s playing for another club not too far away these days……….

In opposition
Cardiff were, at the time, managed by a certain Dave Jones, then the longest serving manager in the division – a record which he kept up by continuing to fail in getting them promoted. Cardiff had been denied a play-off spot by the Owls in the final game of the previous season. As expected, the Bluebirds (go on then, I’ll go with it) had been early front-runners in the campaign, helped by strikers Ross McCormack, Michael Chopra and everybody’s favourite, Jay Bothroyd.
Cardiff had lost two of their centre backs in the summer, both now with Hillsoborough connections. Firstly there was of course Purse, but also Roger Johnson, who was sold to Birmingham for no less than £5m (wow). The only other Wednesday connection in the squad was midfielder Stephen McPhail – yes, I’d pretty much forgotten too.

The game
Neither side came into the game in much form, but both had been scoring goals – Wednesday were, somewhat surprisingly, the third highest scorers in the Championship at this point.
The game was to turn out to be the Etienne Esajas show, as the Owls number 11 was to have one of his best games for the club. Firstly, after just 4 minutes, he scored a perfectly placed free-kick from just outside the box. The lead didn’t last for long, as Peter Whittingham fired home a penalty for the visitors just 12 minutes later.

Into the second half, and Esajas was back on song with a run and cross from the left setting up Luke Varney to score with a header. Wednesday’s task was then made easier as future Wales legend and champion tramp Joe Ledley (then a fresher faced youth) was sent off for a second booking. The game was sealed 10 minutes from time, Esajas again the provider, this time for some bloke called Leon Clarke to side-foot home at the far post. So, a good 3-1 win for Owls, but in true Wednesday fashion, just when things were looking up, a dreadful run was looming, with 1 win out of the next 14 costing Laws his job and ushering in the Alan Irvine era.

Next up
It’s the peaky blinders from Brum up next, and a game in even more recent memory might fit the bill…

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Unread article 19/01/2018 at 11:24

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