‘We will fight forever, because of Boxing Day’…
The Steel City Derby of 1979 is folklore to Sheffield Wednesday fans. For those who were there it was an incredible day of football and for those of us who have heard about it through parents, friends and songs on the Kop, we feel like we were there. Nearly fifty thousand were at Hillsborough that day to watch first versus fourth place in Division Three. Now once again, the two teams of Sheffield meet in the third tier of the Football League to battle for the glory of the city.
Both Wednesday and United have seen better days but both teams are having a slight renaissance under new stewardship. Gary Megson, with the aid of Gary Madine goal machine and the rest of the squad are sitting in second place whilst United, with Danny ‘Judas’ Wilson at the helm are in seventh place.
A few weeks ago Wednesday fans were dreading going to Bramall Lane because the team’s away form was, at very best, patchy. Only one draw from the first four away games, including a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Stevenage led to much trepidation at the possibility of facing the club’s biggest rivals on their own turf. Since the Stevenage game Wednesday have put together a respectable run of four wins on the trot with two of those being away from home; optimism once again is on the rise.
Lessons were learnt following the game against Stevenage and this could be seen at Yeovil. A woeful first half was followed by a second half where some of the eleven on the pitch showed what it really meant to wear the blue and white. It wasn’t pretty but it was determined. Gary Madine shone that day as he has on so many others and with ten goals this season, you wouldn’t like to bet against him securing his place in Wednesday history with a few goals on Sunday.
There was seemingly no reason for the appalling away form as fortress Hillsborough was being created at the same time with six wins from six at home. Chris Lines could be one explanation as he has well and truly stamped his authority on the first team with a string of sterling performances. It could be down to Madine and continuing good form or it could even be down to Megson’s very obvious passion for the job that he is now making his own. I don’t think there is a Wednesday fan that cares though. As long as the team are putting in their all, the fans will respect them.
Sunday will see two teams, who arguably should be playing at a higher level, take each other on but not all of the action will take place on the wrong side of Sheffield. Over 6,000 tickets have been sold for a live broadcast of the match at Hillsborough, which is more than the majority of League One games had in attendance last week.
Titles are not won by history or a perceived injustice at a club’s current position, they are earned by hard work and dedication to the cause and this is what Gary Megson has drummed into his team. League One is packed full of teams who by rights should be in the Championship and every League One club that I have seen play have fans who only deserve the very best.
Sunday will be an exhibition of what the lower leagues really offer; glorious fans, hard-working professional footballers and hopefully a score line that everyone who bleeds blue and white can go into work on Monday morning happy with.
This season has seen more than one star born at Hillsborough though. Gary Madine may be winning the plaudits at the moment but Richard O’Donnell, the goalkeeper who valiantly stood in for Nicky Weaver, will become a Wednesday hero in time and Chris Lines is already making his mark after his move from Bristol Rovers. In addition Liam Palmer, a Scotland Under 21 international, is proving his international status on a weekly basis and loanees Danny Batth and Ben Marshall are making compelling arguments for Milan Mandaric’s chequebook to be brought out come January. In addition to this there are the relatively new signings of Chris O’Grady and Ryan Lowe fighting for a spot in the first eleven.
For the first time in years the future seems to be genuinely bright at Hillsborough and whatever the result on Sunday, the Wednesday squad have the capabilities to bring glory come May.The glory of a derby victory will see you through Monday, maybe a whole week but the tears of joy that run down your face when you see your club promoted will last a lifetime.
I think that a well fought 2-1 victory will go Wednesday’s way with Gary Madine grabbing a brace.
Written by Dom Stevenson, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday Blogger
Dom tweets at @dom_stevenson