8 June ~ Considering that Sheffield Wednesday have just endured the third-worst League placing in their 144-year history, there’s a genuine sense of optimism around Hillsborough. Now that Wednesday have finally shrugged off the crippling millstone of debt and neighbours United were kind enough to drop down and join us in League One, the feeling among most Owls fans is that the “natural order” of football in Sheffield will soon be restored. Admittedly, the fact that there will be Steel City derbies in the third tier for the first time since 1980 is a source of acute embarrassment for England’s fourth-largest city.

Starved of success, the bitter rivalry between Owls and Blades has created an insular attitude towards the wider world of football – “I don’t care where we finish as long as we beat them lot twice” is a common mantra from both sets of fans on local radio phone-ins.

Yet, by the end of March it looked like the clubs might not be renewing hostilities next season after all. The appointment in February of former Owls midfielder Gary Megson was supposed to have galvanised a talented yet collectively incohesive squad to push for at least a play-off spot, but things actually got a lot worse. Wednesday slipped perilously close to the relegation places and an unthinkable first appearance in the Football League’s basement division was becoming a distinct possibility. This was a scenario not even the most pessimistic of Owls would have envisaged after Milan Mandaric’s 11th-hour takeover enabled the club to avoid a second winding-up petition of the season and clear colossal debts amassed by over 15 years of financial mismanagement.
As a player, Megson’s tenacious style had made him a key member of Howard Wilkinson’s 1984 promotion-winning side and, just like his old boss, he picks a team where fitness and physicality come first. This ethos eventually steered Wednesday to a comfortable finish but it has caused ripples of discontent among fans that would prefer Wednesday to start their long overdue revival playing something akin to the champagne football of Ron Atkinson’s early-1990s side. Megson can, however, do something no Wednesday manager has been able to do since that era: be competitive in the transfer market. We aren’t expecting Di Canios or Carbones but it will make the long summer break much more exciting.

Across the city, another former Owls player, Danny Wilson, has become perhaps the most controversial managerial appointment in Sheffield United’s history, being welcomed to Bramall Lane by “Love United, Hate Wilson” banners. Despite playing in Big Ron’s 1991 League Cup-winning side, as Wednesday manager painful memories of an 8-0 humiliation at Newcastle and subsequent relegation from the Premier League had already tarnished his reputation. Taking charge of the Blades is fine by us. In fact we found the whole furore highly amusing. If he does half as good a job as Micky Adams did, then his Hillsborough hero status will be reinstated. Richard Salguero

Comments (11)
Comment by ad hoc 2011-06-08 13:00:34

I have to confess, I'm not sharing your optimism. I'll be very surprised if we make the playoffs this season. Mid table grinding seems to be what we can look forward to

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-06-08 13:08:27

Gary Megson has had a decidedly mixed managerial career but we Baggies have predominantly fond memories of his time at The Hawthorns. His teams were not the free-flowing attractive sides of the Mowbray/di Matteo era but were well-organised and defensively solid (29 goals conceded in our 2001-02 promotion season) and he rarely made a bad signing, indeed a number of Megson signings were still at the club long after the dross of the Bryan Robson area had been shown the door. He was the right man at the right time for us and may be for you as well. But how long will he stay? Mandaric has a track record of getting through managers as quickly as others do shirts and socks while Megson himself is not the easiest to work with.

Comment by jameswba 2011-06-08 13:53:14

Agree. WBA fans argue over whether Megson stayed with us too long(I'm inclined to think he did) but none would give him anything but credit for the work he did over his first two-and-a-half years. Oddly enough, one of our biggest fears early in the 2000-2001 season was that he might leave Albion for Wednesday. Now that he is finally there, I hope he does well. He deserves a decent break after his time at Bolton and Wednesday are one of a few clubs I like to see do well anyway.

Comment by Houdi Elbow 2011-06-08 17:02:48

I'm not particularly optimistic either. Far from being a 'talented' squad we have far too many overpaid has-beens and never-weres for my liking. A lot will depend upon who can be persuaded to join in the next few weeks. Replacing a midfield that was regularly overrun last season is a priority and the proposed retention of the ineffective O'Connor and erratic Johnson is worrying.

I must be one of the few Wednesday fans that finds the derision aimed at Danny Wilson hard to understand. He was a fine servant of our club and played in the most memorable games I can remember as a fan. That he failed as a manager was disappointing, but some of the personalities he inherited and had to work for can't have helped.

Comment by manicowl 2011-06-08 18:11:33

The key issue is whether the Wednesday take on board that it's very rare that a side gets out of that division playing pretty football. If we're happy to watch a typical Megson side hoof it's way up the league things may work out ok, but if the crowd get on his back after three or four ugly performances Mandaric's head may be turned.

I also disagree with the guy above. Wilson may have been a fine player for us but his spell as manager was absolutely catastorphic. He spent millions of pounds on utter crap like de Bilde and Sibon and paid ridiculous wages to completely uncommitted players such as Jonk and Donnelly. What is also forgotten is that he had absolutely no idea to handle the Di Canio situation, had he have displayed a bit of man-management, well, I don't think we'd've stayed in the Prem, but we might have remained in the chasing pack.

Comment by manicowl 2011-06-08 18:12:53

*the Wednesday FANS take on board...

Comment by Jimmy Bignutz 2011-06-08 18:21:14

Can I just say that I really like the frightened owl drawing?

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-06-08 20:39:31

Very rare to get of League One playing pretty football? What about Swansea three years ago or Brighton last season? Further back I remember a very attractive Tranmere side reaching the second tier in the early 1990s and back at B71 a certain Osvaldo Ardiles inspired and revitalised a set of players demoralised by the hooofing style of Bobby Gould and led them to promotion by getting them to play er pretty football. And Megson's Albion teams while less easy on the eye were far from aimless hoofers. The proof of the pudding is in the eating so I think you should wait and see what the ginger chef serves up. Good luck to the Owls for next season anyway.

Comment by Houdi Elbow 2011-06-08 22:17:08

manicowl - Wednesday have tended to sign overpaid and uncommitted players (with a few exceptions) pretty much from the latter days of Trevor Francis's tenure. The blame goes higher up in the club. Di Canio fell out with almost every manager he played for and an acrimonious departure was inevitable. Also the better teams in the 3rd last year were far from hoofball exponents.

Comment by worldcupboy 2011-06-09 22:32:58

Typical owls fan article.Nothing can be said without a dig at the Blades, whilst, for us, Wednesday will never be more than a slightly irritating irrelevance.

Comment by noj 2011-06-13 21:26:14

Good effort worldcupboy. I wonder against which team you'll have your highest attendance next season? Unfortunately you'll have to deal with the fact that for one season at least we'll be slightly more than an irrelevance, if not to you, then to the majority of your fans.

I also don't share the author's optimism for next season. Will wait to see on any signings, but at the moment mid-table at best.

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