As I write this just a couple of hours after a frenetic and pulsating finish to the 126th Sheffield derby, myself and the huge majority of Wednesdayites it seems are smiling brightly. The immediate reason for this the late comeback from 2-0 down to wrestle a point away from our city rivals this Sunday, but also due to the whole outlook on the future of our club.
After 20 minutes at Bramall Lane our hopes for this one were looking bleak, Ched Evans doubling the Blades advantage after Stephen Quinn had followed his ex-Owls and Blades midfielder brother Alan in scoring for the “other side” in this fixture. We had fashioned a large amount of efforts on the United goal, none more so than with Chris O’Grady’s glorious missed opportunity to level at 1-1 from close range, and it looked like the ultimate punishment of a defeat was coming for our profligacy. Perfectly in evidence today though, in the most unforgiving of environments, was this growing belief and togetherness starting to flow through this Sheffield Wednesday team. Talking to members of our 2005 promotion-winning side from this very division, they always point to a great team spirit and work ethic as the crucial factor in our success that year, and while this group of players is very different to the likes of Lee Bullen et al, the same ideologies it seems are starting to serve us well once more.
Into the 82nd minute and the brightest of our attacking sparks shone through again, Stoke loanee winger Ben Marshall providing the ammunition for O’Grady to atone for his earlier sitter, bringing it back to 2-1 with his first Owls goal. A key moment and just four minutes later the scrappy nature of Gary Madine’s 11th of the season perfectly reflected the industrious nature of this comeback. I don’t care about so-called attractive football, the most pleasing football to my eye is winning football, or at least a late leveller in the old enemy’s back yard!
Quite simply this was a game Wednesday would not have taken anything from in the early days of Megson’s reign and certainly not under the stewardship of Alan Irvine. In front of 28,136 at the Lane this team persevered and despite clear errors earlier on in both boxes, they ultimately emerged with a point and real credit for the manner of the comeback. Over 11,000 at the beamback at Hillsborough registered the second-highest attendance in the division this weekend – just to watch a screen. If ever there was an indicator of the sheer attraction of this fixture this was it, how the television saw fit to let this game fall under the radar is a mystery, and indeed a travesty to English football.
Thirteen games into League One this season and Wednesday sit 3rd on 26 points, a point behind 38-game unbeaten Huddersfield and two behind leaders Charlton, who slipped up at Stevenage this Saturday. There is a new-found feel-good factor growing around S6 at present as the endeavour of Megson and his staff’s objectives are beginning to come to fruition. The 5-1 defeat at Stevenage last month looks to have been the jolt of reality the team needed in hindsight, as was the 3-2 win at Yeovil the game after. It was at Huish Park that Glovers striker Kieran Agard put sportsmanship aside to equalise for the home team as he chased down a returned drop ball to score, an injustice that awakened an angry and determined togetherness which has simply grown and grown since. The 100% home record is still intact and the away form has had the shot in the arm it needed with two wins on the road prior to the Derby Day draw.
Even a man as experienced as Milan Mandaric must have wondered at times in the first eleven months or so as chairman of the club if this really was too big a task, and the road is still very long, but the positive signs are showing up along the journey already. Mandaric stated that the passion from the fans was the deciding factor in his takeover, this weekend can only have vindicated that decision.
Maybe you don’t believe us yet, but make no mistake you will soon – Sheffield Wednesday are rising again. Sorry for the wait.