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Sheepskins, Fireworks And Black Bin Bags… The Other Side To ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson’s Sheffield Wednesday

When the name ‘Big Ron’ is brought up to any Sheffield Wednesday fan, especially those of a certain age, the automatic reaction is to cast the mind back to 21st April 1991, the day the charismatic manager lifted the Rumbelows Cup after John Sheridan’s strike. Dink!

What we do not automatically think of is what went on behind the scenes, mainly because dressing room scuffles and training ground bust-ups didn’t make their way into the news headlines like they do in today’s age.

Sheffield Wednesday fan and former centre half Jon Newsome opened up on some of what occurred in the dressing room while Atkinson was in charge when he spoke to The Wednesday Week Podcast.

He said: “Don’t get me wrong, people like Nigel Pearson and Big Ron clashed like you’d never know. He (Atkinson) would join in training and you’d see Nigel Pearson kicking lumps out of him.”

Newsome recalled how Atkinson would keep the young players behind until 4:30 on a Friday afternoon so he could play 5-a-side in a black bin liner to lose a bit of weight.

“I never ever got included in the squad again.” added Newsome, when he was frozen out of the side after he signed a new contract as a 20-year-old, until Atkinson included him in the squad for the final league game of 1990/91 at Oldham, as the club bounced back to the top-flight at the first attempt.

Desperate to play regular football, Newsome turned down a fresh contract offer which turned their relationship sour.

The Sheffield born defender went onto play for Leeds United and Norwich City before he returned to The Owls in 1996 while David Pleat was in the hot seat.

However, it wouldn’t be long before Atkinson walked back through the door after managerial spells at Aston Villa and Coventry City.

“I Literally had my head in my hands thinking that’s me done, and it was. He came in and literally made my life hell for weeks and months.” recalled Newsome, as the fortunes of the club began to take a similar turn for the worse.

It wasn’t long before sparks would fly: “We played Derby away, he took his coat off at half-time and he wanted to have a fight with me. I was 27/28-year-old, prime of my life and I’ve got this 60-year-old man taking his sheepskin off, fronting me up.”

Newsome wasn’t the only player to have their differences with Big Ron: “Paolo had massive run-ins with him, massive, massive fights” he explained.

“We played Coventry away, we came in after the game and Big Ron was digging him out and said he should be embarrassed to pick up his wages this week and it was like bonfire night. Bang!”

Di Canio would outlast Big Ron at the club before he moved onto West Ham in 1999 for £1.5m having signed for The Owls from Celtic for around £4.2m.

“We probably hadn’t seen Ron for nearly a week and Paolo was in his face: You tell me that I shouldn’t pick my wages up, we don’t see you from one week to the next. He was giving him home truths really.”

To watch the full interview, including a cracking story about Benito Carbone, head over to The Wednesday Week Podcast on Facebook, with a new guest live every Monday 8pm, who would you like to see next?  

Unread article 01/06/2020 at 09:47


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