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GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - DERBY

GET WITH THE PROGRAMME - DERBY

After my last GWTP, when I bemoaned the fact that the Derby game had been moved and messed up my plans, it turns out that it is the next home game after all, just a bit sooner than expected – so still messing up my plans (yes, I do plan ahead for this believe it or not).

Make no bones about it, our record against the Rams in recent history is bad, very bad. (I was going to say ‘baaad’ but even I wouldn’t stoop to that level of humour). Since Derby arrived in the Premier League back in 1996 we have played them pretty regularly and, in that time, our League record against them reads : Played 29, Won 3 Drawn 10, Lost 16. Sounds bad enough, but when you consider that two of those wins came in the same season, and the other was at the back end of last season, it sounds even worse.

So, I think it’s fair to say that they are definitely a ‘bogey team’. It’s strange how, despite managers and players changing over the years, and the teams being relatively weaker or stronger than the other, certain teams just seem to have the knack of avoiding defeat against another. OK, I hear you say, many teams over the years have had that knack when it comes to beating Sheffield Wednesday, but Derby really do seem to be our least favourite opponents.
This dreadful record meant that I was hard fought to find a particularly memorable game against Derby, so I have plumped for that aforementioned rare double for the Owls. It’s the 2005/06 season, Saturday 5th November 2005, and a game that I’m sure many of you will remember remember (OK maybe not).
The Owls were back in the Championship after a couple of seasons in League One, and gradually starting to find their feet after a tough start. Of course, that glory day at the Millennium Stadium was still fresh in the minds of all Wednesdayites, and the squad still featured most of the familiar names from the play-off final.

One of these, and gracing the front cover for the second GWTP was Glenn Whelan. Bizarrely, I am writing this with the Aston Villa v Birmingham game on in the background and, just as I take a glance at the programme at the photo of Glenn, on he comes on as a substitute for Villa. How the mighty have fallen?

Still a legend at the club after that day in Cardiff was manager Paul Sturrock. In fact his legendary status had recently been cemented (ahem) by the construction of the new ‘Paul Sturrock Gallery’ brick wall. At just £30 per brick, this gave fans an opportunity to place their name in the ‘historic Hillsborough stadium forever’. A nice idea, but presumably this means we are never going to be able to redevelop the South Stand because someone decided to buy their Uncle Bob a brick as a Christmas present.
In his programme notes, Sturrock expressed his disappointment at the midweek defeat at Reading, but was pleased at the level of performance against a ‘good side’. (Reading were to win the division by a street). This defeat had followed five-game unbeaten run in October, which Paul explained ‘brought us some welcome pointage’. An odd expression to say the least, but it turns out that pointage might actually be a real word and means exactly what Paul intended it to mean – who knew?

The Owls boss also commented on the recent televised draw at home to Brighton, where, having taken the lead through Lee Peacock, Wednesday were denied by a late Colin Kazim-Richards equaliser. Sturrock had continued his superstition of leaving the dug-out for the period of injury time and, for the first time in five years apparently, it failed to work. “Rest assured, that particular superstition is over now” said Paul. It did always strike me as somewhat crazy that Sturrock used to do this, but it obviously worked for quite a long time, so maybe Jos needs to try it? I look forward to him disappearing off down the tunnel when we are actually ahead in a game after 90 minutes in a League match, which at the moment is looking about as likely as a Jacob Butterfield hat-trick.

Turn the page, and we hit the ‘AGM review’. Now, I know I have made plenty of comments about the business side in previous editions of GWTP, but this one does make interesting reading. Apparently “after the acrimonious affairs of recent years” it was “described by two shareholders as a love-in”.
Nevertheless, there was an undertone of hostility in some of the dealings at the meeting, mainly around the relationship with Wednesdayite. Chairman Dave Allen made an offer for the trust’s shares for “one-third of a million pounds”. Now, I may be splitting hairs here, but I would suggest cuddly Dave was being clever here as it is not actually possible to pay anyone a third of a million pounds is it? (one for the mathematicians out there). Finance Director Bob Grierson accused the trust of trying to “obliterate” the Board at the previous December’s EGM, no doubt a reference to the ill-fated Ken Bates affair. In Bob’s words, “You can’t kick us to pieces and then kiss and make up”. I know the club’s directors at this time were not very popular (or, some may say, competent) but you have to admit he kind of had a point.

The Board also announced that they had successfully renegotiated the banking agreement with the Co-op, with £6m of the loan being ‘parked’ until the club reached the Premiership and £7.75m secured against the training ground, to be settled on the sale of the said facility (with negotiations at an advanced stage with Bloor Homes, with apparently just “two issues” remaining to be dealt with). Apparently, other options considered by the bank for these two elements of the facility were “on the return of the messiah”, “on a sighting of Shergar” and “on a Unitedite successfully getting to the end of The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.
The feature interview was with striker Lee Peacock who, as previously mentioned, had recently scored in the draw with Brighton. That goal was actually Lee’s first in the League at Hillsborough, and he expressed his disappointment and surprise at his low goal haul since joining the Owls in the summer of 2014. Lee explained that, since the move, “it’s the first time I’ve not really been scoring on a regular basis”. This despite his overall career ratio being a very respectable 1 in 3 (300 games, 100 goals). Who would have thought that a previously reliable goalscorer could join Wednesday and find that the goals dry up?

Peacock also expressed his desire to stay at the club beyond his contract expiring in the summer : “…I have massive ambitions to stay with Sheffield Wednesday”. Sadly, Sturrock didn’t agree as ‘Leapy’ didn’t even make it past January when he was bombed out to Swindon (where he is now Head of Youth Coaching). However, despite his struggle for goals, he never shirked a challenge and will always be remembered for his role in the 2005 promotion.

Wednesday’s struggle for firepower had seen them recruit a teenage striker from Aston Villa by the name of Gabriel Agbonlahor. A couple of photos of the new loanee show a small waif-like figure, who captain Lee Bullen described as “a strong lad”. Gaby never managed a goal for the Owls and, frankly, looked a bit out of his depth, but went back to his parent club and, let’s say, bulked up a bit. I say ‘a bit’; I think his neck measurement must have been about a third of what it is now.
As a stark reminder of how bad things could be, Jason Dickinson’s article “Time Travel” focussed on the 1975-76 season, to this day still the club’s lowest ever League finish (although we have had a good crack at getting close to it a couple of times in more recent years). The list of results shows the club losing both games in the season to the might of Chesterfield, Hereford, Port Vale and Swindon. The average home attendance was 11,068, although nearly 26,000 turned up to see the Owls scramble over the line to safety against Southend. Dark days indeed.

In opposition

The visitors were only a point ahead of Wednesday going into the game, with the Owls in 21st place and the Rams in 18th. Derby had a decent squad though, with ex-Premier League stars such as Inigo Idiakez, Seth Johnson, Jeff Kenna and, er, Marc Edworthy.
Also making his second appearance in GWTP this season is the appropriately named Phil Brown, in his maiden full-time manager role. Brown had made his name as Sam Allardyce’s assistant in the successful Bolton side, but didn’t even make it through the season at Derby. He, of course, enjoyed somewhat more successful times in his next job at Hull.
Other notable names in the visitor’s squad list were Lee Camp, Peter Whittingham, Tommy Smith and Johnnie Jackson, along with more than the ‘tainted’ forward line of Stern John and Paul Peschisolido.
There were plenty of Owls connections in the squad as well, with Michael Johnson, Lee Grant and Adam Bolder all featuring, alongside a certain Marcus Tudgay.

The game

Derby took the game to the hosts and ran the show for the first 45 minutes. Thankfully, Wednesday’s new loan keeper Nicky Weaver was in inspired form and kept the visitors out for most of the half. However, with just a couple of minutes to go until half time, Tudgay popped up with a near-post header to make it 0-1.
It was actually Tudgay’s first goal of the season, a goalscoring record that saw him move to Hillsborough on New Year’s Day and score some important goals later in the season, including in the reverse fixture. This brings to mind two quiz questions:
-Which other players have scored both for and against the Owls in the same season (not including own goals)?
-Which of those players scored each club in the two corresponding fixtures?
I can think of a few for the first one, but not the second one.
Anyway, the Owls improved in the second half and turned it round in a 5 minute spell, with Chris Brunt tapping home on 68 minutes, and substitute David Graham slotting home after 73. It was to be Graham’s only home League goal for the club.

Next up
Unfortunately, the games are coming a bit too closely together for me to attempt an effort against Swansea, but there aren’t many games to choose from there anyway.
So next up is a visit from Aston Villa, a good chance to delve back a bit further…..  

Unread article 13/02/2018 at 12:58

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