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Here we are then, for the last game of the 2017/18 season, a dead rubber against Norwich. When I started on the GWTP trail back in August, a poor start at Preston had made us all wonder if the Owls could repeat their top six finishes of the previous two seasons. Of course, we can all try and pick apart the reasons for the underachievement of this season (managerial issues, injuries etc) but we can all agree that this season has been a bit of a damp squib from an Owls perspective. And in case you’re wondering what a squib was, it’s a small explosive device, so I guess a damp squib is one that doesn’t go off properly. So there you go.

So, as we finish the season with a mixture of relief and malaise, let’s go back to a time when things were far more positive and exciting. Join me in a trip back 26 years and a couple of weeks to Easter Monday 1992, the 20th April to be precise.
With only two league games remaining after this one, Wednesday were third in the Division One table, just a few points behind second placed Manchester United and leaders (and eventual champions unfortunately) Leeds United. This was, of course, a vintage Owls side, and manager Trevor Francis was waxing lyrical about recent displays, but in particular the previous weekend’s 2-0 home win over Manchester City : “ We won comprehensively, with our best performance of 1992”. With Manchester United winning the Rumbelows Cup (aah, isn’t it good to hear that name?), this meant that third place would be enough for a place in Europe via a place in the UEFA Cup.

Yes, the UEFA Cup, the Dr Jekyll to the Mr Hyde of the Europa League. These were the days when the ‘Europa League’ was just a glimmer in the eye of the UEFA marketing machine, and a time when you had to do rather a lot more than finish somewhere around mid-table to qualify for Europe. Getting into Europe was a hell of an achievement for any team, and third place was an impressive, but realistic, feat for most of the top flight. No dotted line below the top four in the table in those days.
To get to this stage, several Wednesday players had been in impressive form, including David Hirst, by this stage an England international. Francis’s programme notes pointed out : “David played against a good French side at Wembley, and he did no worse than anyone else but he happened to be subbed at half-time”. Trev is, of course, referring to one of the key turning points of Hirsty’s career. Both he and Alan Shearer were selected for the game, but Hirst was, for some reason, played out on the left wing. He struggled to make an impression, was subbed, and with the injuries that were to follow earlier in the 1992-93 season (for which a certain Steve Bould will rightly never be forgiven) that was that as far as his international career was concerned.

Hirst had given Manchester City the runaround in that previous home game, with City defender Michel Vonk quoted as saying “David Hirst gave me a pretty rough time. Chapman, Hughes and Hirst are all top class strikers, but David is the best of the three”. Well said Michel.
Also impressing recently was Carlton Palmer, who had recently played a couple of games for the England B time (whatever happened to that?), one in midfield and one in central defence. According to Trev “Carlton, meanwhile, has literally sprung from nowhere”. Now, either Trev was not entirely sure of the correct use of the word ‘literally’ or Carlton had only disappeared from the world completely at some point, and had also gained a remarkable jumping ability as well…..

With talented players such as these, who would you think was voted as the club’s Player of the Year? Hirst? Palmer? Maybe Roland Nilsson? Nigel Pearson or Paul Warhurst? Or what about Nigel Worthington? Nope, it was none of these, but none other than the West Country’s finest left back and future pub landlord Phil King.
The inside front page of the programme shows a beaming Kingy with his trophy, and it strikes you that Kingy looks precisely nothing like a modern footballer. The same applies to the Man City players on the front over, the moustachioed Neil Pointon and Tony Coton, neither of whom’s appearance would be acceptable in the modern football dressing room.

Kingy was one of the unsung heroes of this era’s team, and it would be unfair to comment on his success without recalling that unreal combination that he and Worthington down that left hand side. King would overlap Worthington, Worthington would overlap King, one would cover if the other went forward, it was a joy to watch for the thinking football fan. Hopefully Morgan Fox and Adam Reach could emulate it next season…….
Moving through the programme, we hit the oft overlooked ‘On the Wing’ the reserve and juniors roundup, and find a photo of a certain Terry Butcher playing in a Wednesday kit. It certainly made me do a double-take, but then a vague recollection came back that Butcher played a few games for Wednesday reserves as a sort of trial-whilst-trying-to-get-fit-and-find-a -new-club sort of thing. Butcher is actually pictured in action with another ex-Owl, Tony Cunningham, who was then turning out for Rotherham’s reserves.
On the Wing doesn’t give much else away about Butch’s short spell at Hillsborough and I must confess I am struggling to recall much else about it – hopefully one of the hordes of GWTP fans could enlighten us?
At this point, I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge me a little as ‘On the Wing’ was at the time written by my uncle, who wrote for the programme for many years. This, you see, is the key to GWTP, as his involvement in the programme for so long is what has led to me having a complete* collection of over 30 years of Wednesday home programmes (and some aways as well). I couldn’t let this article get to the end of the season without saying a big thanks to him – so thanks mate.

As with most programmes of this sort of age, the real interest is in plotting the differences, particularly with this being right at the end of the pre-Premier League era – when, if Sky are to be believed, the history of football actually started.
We have Wednesday being sponsored by a nut bar (Mr Tom – on sale at the ground), and further ads include:
-Alfredo’s ladies and gents hair stylist (3 Snig Hill, beneath the Mucky Duck)
-Steps Restaurant (Businessman’s three course lunch £7.50)
-Inches Diet and Toning Centres (“You’ll be surprised how quickly you can achieve your target weight with the Cambridge Diet”)
-Sheffield Wednesday Clubcall (0898 12 11 86 – anyone want to try it?)
-A print of Hillsborough by Bill Kirby which I’m sure is still being advertised today
We also see that, in the latest bargain from the Owls superstore, you can pick up a pair of away socks, or even a League Cup winners / promotion tie for just £1.
Season tickets and matchday admission prices for the following season were also published, with a season ticket on the Kop costing £141.95 (matchday price £7). How times change…..

In opposition
Norwich were just about to launch into one of the most famous periods of their history, but were struggling to make an impact in this particular season, sitting in a disappointing 18th place. Their manager at the time was the unremarkable Dave Stringer, but the squad contained a fair few names who would go on to become good Premier League players : Mark Bowen, Ian Butterworth, Jeremy Goss, Ruel Fox, Ian Crook and a young Chris Sutton.
They were also playing in one of those strange early 90s shirts (produced by Asics) with a load of thin green stripes over one shoulder. Not great, but still better than the rather dubious paint fleck effort that they were to with the following season…..

The game
This was one of those rare periods in Wednesday history when you could legitimately turn up at Hillsborough fully expecting a home win, and on this occasion the team duly obliged.
After only 10 minutes, a notable moment as Sir Roland of Nilsson decided to score his first goal for the club. I say ‘decided’ deliberately as I think Roland could have pretty much done whatever he wanted, including scoring, but generally thought it the decent thing to leave others to experience that particular glory.
Galloping down the right in his usual way, Roland even had time to fall over before dusting himself off and curling a beauty with the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner.
Nilsson then turned provider for John Sheridan (another great finish) right on the stroke of half-time to make it comfortable. Despite Norwich having a go in the second half the result was never in doubt and it finished 2-0.
This, of course, left Wednesday not only in pole position for a European slot, but still in touch with the League leaders. Unfortunately a draw at Crystal Palace the following Saturday (Palace equalising late through Mark Bright) ended the championship hopes, but the European tour was well and truly on……

And now the end is near……..
So there we have it. When I started this back in August I thought I might pop up with the occasional article, but it’s turned into a bit of an epic and I’ve managed to churn out over 20 of these things (and, for those that didn’t notice, each one from a different season).
Thanks to those who have stuck with it, and for the positive comments on the forum. And thanks also to Tee for letting my nonsensical ramblings get an airing on Owlsonline.
I’d really appreciate any feedback anyone has, including any ideas for next season. Whether this will work again I’m not sure, as I may end up covering old ground. But if you’ve enjoyed it, I’m more than willing to have another go!!!

Over and out

*Actually, my collection is not quite complete, as I am missing the Burnley game from the 2015/16 season. So, if anyone has a copy in decent condition………  

Unread article 04/05/2018 at 13:37


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