Friday, 21 February 2014

Tell you why I don't want Wednesday......

On the morning after the Blades' FA Cup 5th Round victory against Forest, the local radio breakfast show opened its Sports bulletin with "Sheffield United are on course for a FA Cup Quarter Final against Wednesday". I nearly crashed the car, fellow drivers on the Sheffield Parkway had a lucky escape, as did I. The words "on course", suggested that United still had work to do to achieve it. Yet Wednesday were the team still to play, still with a match to win. Surely it was much better to credit United fully for reaching the quarter finals and then acknowledge the possibility of a match with Wednesday assuming they can beat Charlton.
This morning they introduces an interview with Wednesday's Head Coach Stuart Gray with; "The prospect (of an all Sheffield quarter final) is creating a buzz around the city". But is it? To question this notion on a football phone-in is met with disbelief and disdain. "Why wouldn't you want an all Sheffield tie? Do you not want a high profile game that showcases Sheffield? What an occasion it would be, how do you not want to be part of it?"
The incredulity of local radio presenters only serves to demonstrate that they are wrapped in their own little bubble, out of touch with what the fans are thinking. Of course an all Sheffield Quarter Final is great for them. It gives them a guaranteed high profile broadcast from Wembley for a semi-final, maybe a simul-cast of the Quarter Final on 5Live Sports Extra. It fills plenty of airtime, both that normally devoted to sports broadcasting and that which would be given over to the city's potholes, errant bin collections and a singing budgie from Darnall. But really, why should I care?
The unhealthy state of Sheffield football, largely self-inflicted in recent years, is a crying shame for a city of our size, but a cup Quarter Final is a mere sticking plaster over a gaping wound that will need much more time to heal. A non-Premier League quarter final, even if it is a two club city derby, will not create the national buzz that those with a S postcode might believe.
I never want Wednesday to win a match, so why should I now? Their fans are like niggling growing pains that have never gone away. They caused me pain and grief as a child, as the club's relative success in the 1980's garnered the majority of playground support. This superiority complex has lingered around ever since. Looking for any angle to claim superiority, however tenuous, even when on the pitch they were lagging behind United.
I hate Derby matches at the best of times. They are not comfortable viewing. Sitting, twitching, tense, agitated. The focus on not losing to "them" is a strong as wanting to win. But this is a cup game. There has to be a loser. And for the defeated, the loss is tinged with even more frustration and disappointment with a semi-final at Wembley at stake. Defeat in extra time at Wembley in the all-Sheffield semi-final of 1993 was hard to take. This would be up there with it.
Why would you want that risk when United would be the underdogs? When we wouldn't be expected to win? Yes we have done it against Villa, Fulham and Forest, but a defeat then would not be a disgrace, it would be disappointing but nothing more. This? This would be gut-wrenching.
We can cling to the fact United have triumphed so often as underdogs, both in matches against Wednesday and in the cup in recent years. Take our cup run to date as a fine example. The first league derby I remember attending saw Dave Bassett's struggling side achieve an unexpected double over Wednesday, results which, if they had gone the other way, would have seen Wednesday ahead of Manchester United and just a point behind eventual champions Leeds.
We would be the underdogs against Charlton, a side from the division above and some 20+ places better off. Yet without the tension of a local derby, without the fear of defeat but still with the vociferous home backing I believe we would have a much better chance of success. Who, in their right mind, doesn't want the easier option when it is presented?
I also worry about the impact of an unsuccessful Derby match on United's season. Our number one focus is on staying up. Let's not kid ourselves, however positive things are feeling at the minute we are far from out of the woods. Three places above the relegation spots, but only a one point gap and a fixture backlog in front of us, we could easily see our form suffer and possible mid table safety turn into a relegation dogfight.
Some have said that the cup run is a distraction we can do without, I firmly believe otherwise. A cup run is a good thing in that it has allowed us to build confidence round by round and although the league performances haven't necessarily followed, the building blocks are slowly being put together. We look a better team, much more cohesive and players who were struggling for form and out on the side-lines are now brimming with confidence. I just worry about the focus of such a big match on our season, defeat on top would only exacerbate it.
There are Blades who will be happy to meet Wednesday. Desperate to rub the smug arrogance of their fans' faces. There will also be those with the unshakeable self-belief in the team and that they will win. History and experience of watching the Blades knocked that out of me years ago.
Whilst Unitedites are split on who they would like to face, it is clear who a majority favour - an online poll shows 64% of Blades fans who have voted would prefer to play Charlton and that is representative of many forum posts and workplace conversations. Hardly a city excited at the prospect of Blades v Owls! Much of the clamour for a Derby comes from across the city, where the Owls' wings have been clipped by back to back defeats, but not enough to knock the confidence that the team from the higher division should win through.
The thing is many Wednesday fans believe they are already through. aided and abetted by local radio reports of the 5th round draw which suggested a home tie against an out of form Charlton Athletic was as good as a bye to the next round. The hubris of them talking of "tinpot" Charlton, the internet forum threads about Wembley and how they will thrash us to get there, just grate with me.
I cannot help wanting them to eat humble pie at some point. Some may say what better way than against United. Not me. Let them get a big crowd versus Charlton, all dreaming of a match at the Lane and beyond. Then let them lose. 1-0 will do. A flukey goal on a bog of a pitch. And then let us have a good competitive game with Charlton at the Lane.
Whilst I agree that Sheffield football is in need of a boost, particularly in terms of profile. If there is an exclusive 6th Round party to be had, then I want us to be the only local invitees.
It is a bit like when you went to a teenage house party and you are knocking back the Thunderbird trying to chat up the girl/boy from another school. All of a sudden your loud, boorish older brother comes barging in and bangs on, bragging about what a catch he is, how special he is, slobbering over the other guests, embarrassing you. In doing so, he blows your chances as well. "Yes he's related. No, you are right you can't choose your family". This is our party, gatecrashing older brothers are not welcome.


  1. A well written piece and a totally understandable viewpoint. As a Charlton fan, I hope we can beat Wednesday if only to teach their deluded and unlikable fans that an all Sheffield quarter final is not a forgone conclusion. Every other team, apart from the massives, is tinpot this tinpot that, but what exactly have they done lately apart from finishing runners up to us in league one. Oh well, lets prepare ourselves for the insults if the do win on Monday. I just hope that you beat them in the next round. Their forums would go into meltdown. Anyway, good luck with the rest of the season, and hopefully see you all sometime soon

  2. Me and my two sons are the only Blades in 3 generations of Midweek supporters.
    Although the absolute joy of beating them to get to the semi final would be fantastic, the actual game itself isn't enjoyable in any way.
    Even leading 3-0 at Half Time a few years ago was a false dawn of a relaxing end to the game.
    A game against Charlton would actually give us home advantage at a packed ground in a winnable game. There's no disrespect to Charlton in that. They will be very difficult opponents and by no means will they come to rollover.
    However we don't have the history with them of even a Forest never mind Midweek.
    Give me Charlton any time.

  3. Nonsense! Bring 'em on! If we can't look forward to a home tie against our most bitter rivals in the FA cup quarter finals then it's time to find another Saturday afternoon passtime. Stop paying attention to ths media and your fickle Wednesday pals and get positive. Utb

  4. What a great piece. I couldn't think of anything worse than ever saying I wanted those set of grunters to win. If they win, they win, we play them, but getting Charlton would allow us to play how we want to play, not running around like headless chickens like you often see in steel city derby clashes, and also have fans watching, a little calmer.
    They are arrogant, always have always will be and I would love to see Chris Powell's men knock them down a peg or two.
    The post above, we are all mostly positive as a Blade due to the last few results but it's We*nesday. Derby days aren't enjoyable, I'm up at Newcastle at Uni and all my Geordie/around the UK mates are telling me I should love a Derby - wrong, they are the worst few hours of your life leading up to, and during the match. The only consolation is if WE win. If not, it's a constant ear full.

    Sorry if I've gone on a bit!


  5. Who cares ! Does it all come down to a stupid cup that no one is interested in or league status. I know a cup run is a good thing for financial reasons but come on! You will never be MASSIVE UTO FTB!

  6. Bitter, one-sided stuff. Writing off an entire fanbase as "smug" and "arrogant" etc. is somewhat cheap. Unlike you, most people recognise that among several thousand people there will be both good, bad, humble and arrogant. I personally hope that your fears for the game ARE realised but I'm certainly not smug or arrogant and am worried about the Charlton game tomorrow. Once that's over and if we're sucessful THEN I'll look forwatd to a big day for the city, along with many of my mates, Blades and Owls alike.

    Try knocking the chip off your shoulder, you might enjoy life a bit more!!

    1. You enjoying life Lesley? I'm loving it. Lets hope you didn't book a hotel for April like some of your deluded fellow "fans" did. I liked your comments and your blog by the way. You certainly come across more intelligent than other fans of the club you support that I have had the misfortune to know. Even the one that got a degree from Warwick was a deluded arrogant.

  7. 'A non-Premier League quarter final, even if it is a two club city derby, will not create the national buzz that those with a S postcode might believe.' Very good point, a all-Sheffield QF would mostly drum the interest of locals whilst the nationals look at Manchester City and Arsenal who should have a simple (ish) passage into the semis.

  8. You missed out the fact that playing them would mean that they got half of the gate receipts & TV revenue as well as prize money for beating Charlton (and inevitably us too), but other than that absolutely summed up my feelings.
    And Lesley, there are always exceptions to the rule, it was a generalisation, not a blanket statement.

    I can't understand anyone who enjoys the prospect of a Sheffield Derby, an absolutely horrendous occasion, that is not even great if you win. Winning gives you a feeling of relief rather than euphoria.

    If there was a 99% chance of us beating them, the 1% chance of us not beating them would be too much for me to want to play them.

    But what sums it up for me is your comment that, "I never want Wednesday to win a match, so why should I now?" Exactly, if you don't think this there is something wrong.

  9. I wouldn't even want wednesday to win a xorner..a throw in so certainly wont be shouting for them monday night. come on charlton shut the smug cocky arrogant sods up for good. Utb

  10. Another well-written piece Ian; a well-thought point-of-view but one I find disappointing and quite saddening. I'm only a couple of years younger than you and indeed my first experiences of derbies were the double under Bassett, also as a tiny minority in a school full of Owls, but my memories of that Monday morning and the Wednesday morning later in the season are largely what formed my love of football. Without the sheer pride I felt on those special days, I'm not sure I'd be quite such a football fan as I am today.

    I work in Huddersfield, a one-club town, and it's impossible to have anything more than a mundane, club-comparison-style conversation about football with the locals. Any hint of "banter" (in the old sense of the word), however light-hearted, is usually met with a prickly reception. And it's that that worries me about my relationship with football - how mundane it can all very quickly become when you start looking at it from a more mature viewpoint. I guess I am one of those with "unshakable self-belief in the team" but it's not immaturity; it doesn't come through ignorance or my lack of "experience of watching the Blades" that knocked it out of you years ago, oh no. It's forced. It's a dedication to a dream. A faith, if you will. And I'm genuinely sorry that so many of my fellow Blades fans would rather stick to their unwavering dedication to being "anti-Wednesday" than harbour any positivity (I'd class mine as fiendish curiosity) about the prospect of an all-Sheffield FA Cup Quarter Final at The Lane. I suppose you could say you were sorry that I don't have enough love for the sport without the rivalry and you may well be right, but in a week where Wayne Rooney has signed a contract where he'll still earn £300k per week when he's 33 years old, I find myself thinking about the Mitch Wards, Jamie Hoylands, Carl Bradshaws, Dane Whitehouses of this world who, in between building or painting houses or whatever they're doing now, if you ask them their best ever memories, will all tell you of days running through the balloons to the sound of 35,000 Sheffielders who I'm loathed to believe were no more than simply sitting through the torment. Rose-tinted specs, maybe, but those fabled "bragging rights" never seemed to me to be just a happy by-product of the business of football but something I dreamt about for the weeks leading up to the games. And the road to dreams coming true requires a little helping hand from the gods of fate so I for one will be happy in my own little bubble that tonight, any result is a good result. It doesn't make me less of a Blade.

  11. I'm with you on this one as it has shades of 93 about it. We got through to the semi the hard way in 93 beating both Man Utd (champions) and Blackburn (Champions Elect) to get there and the pigs had a similar run to this year. Macclesfield Rochdale Charlton. (No disrespect to any of those teams however none of them are Premier or top of the championship). Still it was the pigs that got through from two set pieces. They are beyond belief lucky (Co-op when facing oblivion, this years draw, playing against 9-10 men. Leeds when they try three at the back for a change,) We have had to fight for every point after the appointment of Wear. So the prospect of the good cup run coming to an unlucky end (cos you can guarantee if there's any luck to be had it will be the Pork) is not appealing especially with those arrogants, one on this post calling them Massive!! Yes massive indeed I'm sure they would have been able to pay Rooney even more had he come over to them. Barcelona constantly aim to be as big as the pork one day (that's how deluded the pork are). So I would prefer the team that played against so well against QPR (above Derby and Wigan in the league) turn up at Swillsbrough and do us a favour.

  12. Hi...( from an Owls 'fan');
    There are some very good points made in the original piece about the relative 'importance' of a 'derby' game at this point in time....pity though, that the author lumps all Owls fans into one bracket...but no matter...what I'd love to see is BOTH our clubs back where they the top flight...and even 'here' at this time...if it should be that United beat Wed and progress...then I for one wish them all the best in their cup run, if so. Then when we're both back 'up there'...we'll see what happens...:O) Let me tell you something from years ago when i first started work (1964). There was a guy there (who wasn't alone in this I might add) who had, every season, a season-ticket for BOTH grounds....he 'favoured' the Owls in a way as he lived at Hillsborogh..but 'supported' both clubs. Now then..after all the 'vitriol' lately..isn't that 'nice'(r)...?? :O) Best wishes to whoever gets through..luv JD (exiled in Devon...and you think our two clubs have it bad? Look at the ones down here! jeez!) :O) xx

    1. As with everything in life John, rivalry has varying degrees. There are those for whom hatred and anger play the strongest part but I'm still hoping those are still the minority. Indeed I'm still proud of the fact that flew in the face of segregation on that fateful day back in 93 and took dozens of "mixed" coaches down to Wembley.

      All my friends are Owls I'm married to an ST-holding Owl and my Dad did much the same as you mentioned (but by far "favoured" the Blades) so maybe that's why I'm more than happy to face you at every given opportunity - lots of wind-ups, poking fun, cheeky jibes followed by bragging or cringing! It's what keeps the game fun. And on that note, "We'll never be mastered..."! xx