On Saturday, along with over 3000 other Owls, I will be making the short trip to Leicester as we take on the promotion hopefuls. Our Championship status for next season is far from certain. I’d settle for a point or two from this weekend and the subsequent visit of Cardiff. A win in either game would be greatly received, heading into a run of fixtures against teams in and around us. This league continues to be as unpredictable as ever. Our upcoming opponents are both having a bit of a dip in form, but the quality in their squads will mean that they can and likely will get back on track.
Heading to Leicester, I have mixed memories of previous games at the King Power (formerly Walkers) Stadium. Since they left Filbert Street in 2002 we’ve travelled to played The Foxes five times, winning twice, losing twice with one draw. Given our troubles over that period it’s not a bad return. Even the goals scored during those games are level with 8 each.
I can vividly remember all those games for a variety of reasons, however three stand out; two of which I attended, the other I didn’t, but I’ll come to that.
My first experience of the King Power Stadium was in December 2006. This is one of the best away performances I have seen. An emphatic 4-1 victory only tells half the story. Granted, Leicester spent most of the second half playing with ten men, but that didn’t take away from what followed with three spectacular long range goals. Chris Brunt added to his first half penalty with a trademark left foot screamer. Glen Whelan crashed one in off the bar with a ferocious shot from all of 40 yards; this was the best of the bunch for me. Finally Marcus Tudgay put the icing on the cake as he completed the rout cutting in on the angle to beat the keeper from distance. A fantastic away day with the Owls.
To say my last visit was a disappointment would be a slight understatement. Whilst Brian Laws had overseen our marvellous 4-1 victory, he also managed his last game against Leicester. In a season that ended in eventual relegation, we were well beaten and lucky to get away with a 3-0 defeat. I remember a massive feeling of dejection at the final whistle and the writing being on the wall for our gaffer. I was certainly fed up of hearing Kasabian song ‘Fire’ being played over the tannoy after each goal. Laws had led us to our first victory at Bramall Lane in my lifetime and our first derby double in 95 years. It was sad to see him depart in such circumstances.
The third game that sticks in my memory was in April 2008. I was in Ireland and had to listen to the game in an internet café in Carrick on Shannon. I was gutted to be missing the game. We were deep in the relegation mire at the time. This was our penultimate match and we were just below Leicester in the table. Defeat would have made them safe whilst leaving us in a perilous position. Southampton were also in the mix but we knew victory would put our fate in our own hands. We went 1-0 down early in the game but crucially got an equaliser on the stroke of half time. Bartosz Slusarski…hardly a name synonymous with the club, but he has his part in our history. Steve Watson gave us a crucial lead before the much maligned Leon Clarke made one of his few key contributions to the club by sealing a 3-1 victory in the dying moments. In a game that saw two missed penalties and so much at stake, Wednesday pulled through showing character and fighting spirit. We stayed up; Leicester went down.
So we’ve had a love hate relationship with the King Power Stadium. This Saturday’s game could be a pivotal moment in our battle for Championship survival. Leicester have spent a huge amount of money on players yet still seem destined for a repeat of last season with the play offs. They will be under pressure from their fans given their current run of form, whilst the travelling Owls will have hope rather than expectation. Let’s hope we make it our third victory at the East Midlands club’s current home.
Up the Owls!
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl