Tag Archives: Sheffield Wednesday

My Kind Of Town: Issue 11

My Kind Of Town

I’m pleased to announce that Heron Publications have republished my feature about Sheffield Wednesday’s away record in the mid-1970s.

The latest edition of their magazine, My Kind Of Town, is a football special, which also includes articles about Wednesday’s David Ford and Sheffield United’s Mick Jones.

The magazine, priced at £4.99, is available from Heron Publications’ website and selected branches of Waterstones.

Sheffield Wednesday vs. Liverpool: what a strange match!

Three different Sheffield Wednesday footballers played in goal during their match against Liverpool in May 1997.

There were some odd matches during Sheffield Wednesday’s tenure in the Premier League.

For example, during Wednesday’s game against Nottingham Forest in March 1996, Chris Woods picked up an injury and Steve Nicol ended up donning the gloves for the final 45 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, they lost 3-1 after Forest’s Paul McGregor and Bryan Roy scored in the second half.

Also, in February 2000, the Owls were beating Derby County 3-1 in stoppage time. However, with minutes to spare, they ended up drawing, thanks to goals from Craig Burley and Malcolm Christie.

Booth is a goalie

But there was an even stranger match in May 1997, when Sheffield Wednesday drew 1-1 with Liverpool.

I’m not talking about O’Neill Donaldson’s goal; I’m talking about their goalkeeping dilemma.

Firstly, after making a string of fine saves, Kevin Pressman pulled his hamstring and was replaced by débutante Matt Clarke.

However, within ten minutes, Clarke was given his marching orders, after being judged to have handled outside the penalty area.

Striker Andy Booth – who was hardly the most agile footballer – wore Clarke’s jersey for the reminder of the match, and Jamie Redknapp immediately equalised with the awarded free kick.

The phrase, “strange but true”, is very apt in this instance.

Terry Burton: is he Dave Jones’ most important signing at Sheffield Wednesday?

In the past, Terry Burton has held coaching positions at Arsenal, Wimbledon, Watford, Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion.

The recent news that Terry Burton – who was Dave Jones’ assistant at Cardiff City – has joined the Owls in a coaching capacity did not surprise many fans.

After all, Jones has been reunited with several of his former employees in the past.

He managed Paul Jones and Kevin Cooper at three different clubs – as well as Lee Todd, Chris Marsden, Mark Kennedy, Sean Connelly, Tony Dinning and Michael Oakes at two different clubs.

Furthermore, Burton is highly experienced and can be regarded as one of the most underrated coaches in English football.

But what can Sheffield Wednesday fans expect from Burton?

Young at heart

After retiring early as a player and becoming a coach in schools, Burton joined Arsenal as a youth team coach in 1979.

As well as working with the likes of Paul Merson, he was credited with influencing Tony Adams’ career after spotting his leadership abilities at a young age.

Burton’s coaching ethos at Arsenal was based on taking footballers as individuals and making them better players, rather than forcing them to fit into a particular style or formation.

His efforts were soon rewarded with spells as Arsenal’s first team and reserve team coach.

After a brief tenure at Wealdstone, Burton joined Wimbledon in 1988. One of his earliest roles at the club was coaching the Crazy Gang’s youth team – which included players such as Chris Perry, Neal Ardley, Peter Fear and Stewart Castledine – with great success.

For instance, Burton’s team reached the FA Youth Cup semi-final. From this, it is clear that Burton – who mentored Aaron Ramsey at Cardiff City – has a proven track record in coaching and developing young players.

It is fair to say that Sheffield Wednesday’s youth system has not been a priority for several years and many recent academy graduates have underachieved.

If Burton can tap into the potential of youngsters like Liam Palmer, and ensure that they use their talents on a more consistent basis, he can improve the Owls’ future.

An innovative man

Burton also assisted Joe Kinnear at Wimbledon, and he later became the club’s technical and youth academy director.

His spell as the Dons’ technical director, in particular, established Burton as an intelligent and forward thinking coach.

For instance, and in contrast to Sam Hammam’s view that the club should scout players from Brentford and Leyton Orient, Burton was keen to see what top Russian strikers did. This was done in order to develop new coaching methods at Wimbledon’s academy.

During this era, he also took a year’s sabbatical from coaching – where he studied the training methods used by Barcelona, Ajax and the Clairefontaine technical centre – to develop fresh and innovative ideas.

His work at Wimbledon interested Glenn Hoddle, who was keen to recruit Burton as a coach for the England national team, but the Dons rejected Hoddle’s approach.

A strong coach

He also managed Wimbledon, between 2000 and 2002, where he used attacking formations in an attempt to give the club a new image.

Despite selling the likes of Ben Thatcher and Carl Cort, the club achieved two top ten finishes in Nationwide Division One under Burton’s stewardship.

He left the club in April 2002, after falling out with the board, and was employed as Ray Lewington’s assistant at Watford between 2002 and 2004.

Burton was seen as an influential figure at Vicarage Road – while the Blind, Stupid and Desperate fanzine stated that he took full responsibility for coaching first team players.

Former Cardiff City loanee Stephen Bywater, meanwhile, recently told the Yorkshire Post that Burton conducted a significant amount of coaching at the Bluebirds.

Don’t be surprised if a similar thing happens at Sheffield Wednesday.

Will it work?

To Jones’ credit, though, Burton’s move to the Owls has been handled with care and dignity.

For instance, Jones has insisted that the club’s assistant manager, Chris Evans, will be retained. This is a wise decision because axing coaches like Evans would unsettle the club.

Continuity is crucial, especially at this stage of the season; just look at Chelsea’s stagnation since Ray Wilkins’ departure.

There is no doubt that Burton’s arrival will complement the existing coaching set-up and improve the Owls’ promotion bid.

Forget about the tedious speculation regarding potential transfers, Terry Burton could be Dave Jones’ most important signing at Hillsborough.

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This feature was published by War Of The Monster Trucks in March 2012.

Non-web sources

Massarella, L. (2000) Centre Cort, Wimbledon. FourFourTwo, May 2000, p.74-78.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Intertoto Cup adventure

David Hirst models Sheffield Wednesday’s new kit ahead of their Intertoto Cup tie with Górnik Zabrze.

As the phrase goes, hindsight is a funny thing.

Some Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers fans may feel that the 2011/2012 season is one of the worst they have seen.

Within the next decade, though, they may have changed their minds.

Just look at Sheffield Wednesday: the club was involved in a relegation battle during the 1995/1996 season, which would have disappointed many fans.

But they were competing in the Premier League.

They had signed Marc Degryse from R.S.C. Anderlecht. And, best of all, they played in the UEFA Intertoto Cup.

The build up

Sheffield Wednesday were one of three English teams who competed in 1995’s Intertoto Cup – the others being Wimbledon and Tottenham Hotspur – and, according to 90 Minutes journalists Kevin Palmer and Andy Strickland, the Owls were “[t]he only British team to take the Intertoto Cup seriously [that] summer”.

Judging from the build up, though, that statement could have been very different.

In May 1995, Sheffield Wednesday rejected the opportunity to join the competition and, earlier that month, Tottenham Hotspur and Wimbledon had also rebuffed UEFA’s offer.

In early June, though, all three sides agreed to play in the competition, which prevented UEFA from banning English clubs that would be participating in European competitions during the 1996/1997 season.

Sheffield Wednesday’s group was tough, though, as the Owls’ opponents Group One included Danish side Aarhus GF and Fußball-Bundesliga outfit Karlsruher SC.

A tough start

The preparations for the first match, against FC Basle at the St. Jakob Stadium on 24 June, were less than ideal.

For instance, Clive Baker was in temporary charge and many experienced players were still on their pre-season break.

The likes of Graham Hyde and Lee Briscoe started the match, but Baker was forced to rely on five guest loanees: Cardiff City’s John Pearson, Bradford City goalkeeper Ian Bowling, David German of Halifax Town, and Rotherham United duo Andy Williams and Tony Brien.

Pearson made a lively return to the club by creating chances, but a second-half strike by Alexandre Rey gave the experienced Swiss side a 1-0 victory.

With just one qualification place available, the club could not afford to lose another game.

A new manager

By the time they were due to play their next game, against Górnik Zabrze at Rotherham United’s Millmoor Stadium on 8 July, the Owls were in better shape.

David Pleat was ready for his first game as Sheffield Wednesday’s manager and several first-team players – including Chris Woods, Ian Nolan, Des Walker, Andy Sinton, Peter Atherton, Chris Waddle and Mark Bright – started the match, after returning for pre-season training just 24 hours before the match.

Star striker David Hirst, though, was completing a three-match European ban for his dismissal against 1.FC Kaiserslautern in 1992.

The Owls scored first when Julian Watts’ attack troubled defender Maciej Krzętowski, which led to an own goal, but Marek Szemoński soon equalised.

And, just before the half time break, some strong build-up play between Waddle, Hyde and Nolan found Bright’s head to give Sheffield Wednesday a 2-1 lead.

Bright nearly scored another goal in the second half, but his shot came back off the post and Waddle fired in the rebound.

Woods, however, made a howler after losing his balance and he fell over the line, while the ball was still in his hands, to give the visitors a consolation goal.

An early exit

Ahead of the group’s biggest match, against group leaders Karlsruher SC at the Wildparkstadion on 15 July, Sheffield Wednesday needed to avoid defeat in order to stay in the competition.

Danny Bergara, the club’s head coach, was in charge and the home side took an early lead when Slaven Bilić scored with a cracking 30-yard strike.

The Owls got a deserved equaliser and ended Karlsruher SC’s 100% record when Bright scored another header from close range after some excellent work by Waddle.

Millmoor hosted the final match, against Aarhus GF on 22 July, and both sides had to hope that results went their way, if they were to ensure qualification for the knockout stages.

New signing Mark Pembridge – and the club’s new crest and home kit – made their débuts and the Welshman made an immediate impact by setting up Bright’s third goal of the competition after 11 minutes.

Nocko Jokovic soon equalised but Bright scored again, during the opening period of the second half, after he was set-up by Sheridan.

Sheffield Wednesday’s best goal of the tournament was left until last, though.

Dan Petrescu dribbled past two defenders and the goalkeeper, and thus allowing an easy tap-in for the Romanian full back.

However, the match ended on a sour note.

Bright was sent-off for retaliating to Henrik Mortensen’s challenge and the Owls exited the tournament after Karlsruher SC hammered Górnik Zabrze 6-1.

The aftermath

Although Sheffield Wednesday did not progress to the next round, they were moral winners in comparison to Tottenham Hotspur and Wimbledon.

The two London sides were banned from European competitions for one season after fielding under-strength sides throughout the Intertoto Cup.

The Premier League quickly vetoed the punishment and UEFA scrapped the ban in January 1996, but it became the legacy of the Intertoto Cup.

Although clubs like Bradford City and West Ham United fielded strong sides in future tournaments, it was never a priority in English football.

Tottenham Hotspur and Wimbledon got what they deserved, though, as both sides finished second-from-bottom in their groups.

Furthermore, Spurs lost three of their four matches and the Crazy Gang failed to win a single match.

On the other hand, Sheffield Wednesday won two matches and finished second in Group One with seven points.

And, if they had beaten Karlsruher SC and gained a point against FC Basle, they would have qualified for the knockout stages.

The Owls can look back at their Intertoto Cup campaign with pride, that’s for sure.

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This feature was self-published in March 2012.

Non-web sources

Anon (1995) Diary. When Saturday Comes, July 1995, p.5-11.

Anon (1995) Cover Picture. Sheffield Wednesday v Górnik Zabrze Programme, Saturday July 8 1995, p.4.

Anon (1995) The Intertoto Experience. Sheffield Wednesday v Blackburn Rovers Programme, Wednesday August 23 1995, p.6-7.

Kaye, Mitchell and Wills, Juliette. (1996) Master Sheff. 90 Minutes, Saturday September 14 1996, p.8-11.

Palmer, Kevin and Strickland, Andy. (1995) Not So Great Expectations. 90 Minutes, Saturday September 9 1995, p. 34-35.

Hopeless Football League Teams #4: Sheffield Wednesday (2003)

Terry Yorath was Sheffield Wednesday’s manager from October 2001 to October 2002. Image courtesy of Robin Byles via Flickr.

Some teams – Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, in particular, spring to mind – find it easy to bounce back into the Premier League after being relegated.

For others, such as Sheffield Wednesday, regaining their place in the top-flight is harder than it first seems.

When the Owls were relegated from the Premier League in the 1999/2000 season, they soon became perennial strugglers in the Football League.

For instance, only two of the Owls’ past eight seasons, in the second tier of English football, have not involved a relegation battle of some kind.

One of them, the 2002/2003 season, ended in Sheffield Wednesday becoming the sixth former Premier League club to drop into the third tier (after Swindon Town, Oldham Athletic, Manchester City, QPR and Barnsley).

Summer moves

The Owls’ first move at the end of the 2001/2002 season was the appointment of Terry Yorath as the club’s permanent manager, having been in charge on a temporary basis since Peter Shreeves’ resignation in October 2001.

Yorath had only won 11 of his first 33 league matches in charge, but having kept Sheffield Wednesday in the First Division by a single point and taken them to the League Cup semi-final, his contract was renewed in order to maintain some much-needed continuity at the club.

Although, due to the Owls’ £20 million debt, money was tight, the summer of 2002 saw some fresh faces at Hillsborough.

Bringing in new strikers was Yorath’s main priority, after the Owls were the third lowest goalscorers in the 2001/2002 First Division season with only 49 goals.

Chelsea’s promising youngster Leon Knight joined the club on a season-long loan, after a highly successful temporary spell at Huddersfield Town, and Yorath fended off competition from Crystal Palace to sign prolific Brentford striker Lloyd Owusu on a free transfer.

The pair, who had scored 37 goals between them in the 2001/2002 Second Division season, would provide stiff competition for Shefki Kuqi and Gerald Sibon, and they were also seen as replacements for the transfer listed Efan Ekoku and Michele Di Piedi.

Defensive changes were also made as South African goalkeeper Paul Evans and the much-derided full back Jon Beswetherick moved from Brentford and Plymouth Argyle respectively, while a proposed transfer for Rangers centre back Scott Wilson never materialised.

Kevin Gallacher, Steve Harkness and Marlon Broomes were just a few of the departed players in a mass clearout, and the BBC predicted that the Owls would finish in a safe mid-table position. How wrong they were.

A poor start

The Owls’ first league match of the 2002/2003 season was a 0-0 home draw against Stoke City.

The fact that Knight and Owusu were ruled out of the season’s opening game against newly promoted Stoke City, through suspension and a knee injury respectively, was a troubling indicator that it could be a difficult season for Sheffield Wednesday.

Although the Owls did not lose the match, they failed to score despite creating nine shots on goal.

Neil Cutler was in inspired form for the Potters but Kuqi, Sibon and Simon Donnelly all missed good chances, which incurred the wrath of Yorath.

And things did not get much better, as the Owls lost their next three matches: 2-1 defeats against Reading and Rotherham United, and a pitiful 4-0 loss at Nottingham Forest. Just four games into the new season, they were second from bottom.

Furthermore, by early September 2002, director Graham Thorpe resigned due to the “increased financial commitments” facing Football League clubs, despite Hallam FM agreeing to sponsor the Spion Kop stand and the Owls’ proposal to sell their training ground. On and off the field, they were becoming a club in crisis.

Winning games was clearly a problem for Wednesday. It took them until their sixth game to grab all three points, after a 2-0 home win against Sheffield United and a perfect début for Owusu, having scored the opening goal, and they didn’t win another league game until mid-October.

And, while they were losing fewer games than other struggling teams, they were drawing more: six draws in their first 13 games, to be precise, and three of them were scoreless, which led to The Guardian claiming that “Wednesday [are] still playing like it’s 1999”.

Yorath’s contract extension may have led to some continuity at Hillsborough, but there was little progression.

When the manager resigned at the end of October 2002, the Owls were third from bottom and the only First Division club yet to win away from home (they finally won a league match, away from home, on New Year’s Day, after a 2-0 victory at Millmoor).

From their first 21 games of the season, they had won the fewest games, a grand total of two victories, and were the division’s lowest goalscorers with 16 goals.

The former Wales manager, being a tough disciplinarian, also frequently berated his players’ efforts and was fining them as soon as pre-season started. He went as far as publicly criticising Kuqi for having “a head like a television”.

Fresh faces

Former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Turner managed the Owls between November 2002 and September 2004. Image courtesy of Robin Byles via Flickr.

Seeing that Yorath’s man-management style was tactless as best, and despite being backed by stalwart Kevin Pressman, he did the right thing by resigning, even if the BBC described the Owls’ high turnover of managers as akin to a “managerial merry-go-round”.

A new manager was quickly appointed, even if it was not the one of the big names that had been touted in the media.

Considering how much they dislike Sheffield Wednesday, it did not come as a surprise when Rotherham United quickly ruled Ronnie Moore out of the running and “right club at the wrong time” was Peter Reid’s verdict after he was contacted about the vacancy.

George Burley was believed to have been interviewed for the role, but it was the boss of Division Three’s runaway leaders, Chris Turner of Hartlepool United, who became Sheffield Wednesday’s fifth manager in over two years.

Turner bravely claimed that he could take the Owls into Europe within five years, but his reign did not start well.

It began with a 3-0 defeat at promotion chasing Norwich City and they were winless under Turner until they defeated Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day.

By this point, though, they were the First Division’s basement club and taking 17 points from the first 25 league games was not promising.

And, to add insult to injury, Ian Hendon and Philip Scott were suspended after being arrested on suspicion of assault. Hopeless doesn’t even come into it.

During the early months of 2003, funds were made available after Gerald Sibon joined SC Heerenveen – a transfer that reportedly saved the Owls nearly £400,000 in wages – and Owen Morrison departed to the red half of Sheffield.

Experienced midfielder Darryl Powell joined on a free transfer and, on the negative side, Turner also signed Leyton Orient defender Dean Smith and Preston North End’s Brian Barry-Murphy.

On the plus side, several loanees had joined the club since Turner’s arrival – such as Lee Bradbury, Michael Reddy, Adam Proudlock, Allan Johnston and Garry Monk – and many of them made an immediate impact.

It says a lot when Bradbury, Reddy and Proudlock’s combined tally of eight goals was greater than Knight and Owusu’s seven.

But it still did not make much difference as, from 26 October 2002, the Owls remained in the relegation zone for the rest of the season.

Only one outcome

Although there were brief moments of Sheffield Wednesday showing enough heart to climb out of the bottom three, they were unable to put a run of results together.

They failed to win more than two consecutive league matches all season and it was typical when they followed an excellent 5-1 win over Coventry City by going on a five-match winless run during March 2003.

Wednesday eventually went on their best run of the season – taking 15 points from their last seven games – but it was too little, too late.

After beating Wimbledon and the season’s First Division champions Portsmouth, as well as coming from behind twice to draw with Watford, they faced relegation rivals Grimsby Town at Hillsborough.

And, due to other relegation-threatened sides being equally poor, beating the Mariners would have taken the Owls out of the relegation zone on goal difference, if results went their way.

But, during the match’s final minutes, Steve Haslam headed a golden chance over the bar and it ended scoreless.

With three games left, the Owls were now five points adrift of 21st placed Stoke City. Relegation seemed likelier than ever.

Realistically, on 21 April 2003, nothing less than a victory at Brighton & Hove Albion would do.

It was recent signing Grant Holt who influenced the match’s outcome; he scored the opener after 16 minutes but, after handling a Kerry Mayo cross on 57 minutes, Bobby Zamora converted the awarded penalty to secure a 1-1 draw.

On that day, it became official: Sheffield Wednesday would spend the 2003/2004 season in the Second Division.

Funnily enough, on the penultimate weekend of the season, the club achieved their best result, after beating Burnley 7-2 at Turf Moor, and their season ended on a positive note when they defeated Walsall at home.

Maybe if Turner had signed Andrei Kanchelskis and Marcus Allbäck on loan, as rumoured, the Owls may not have finished 22nd and been four points shy of escaping relegation.

But, even for a relegated side, they had their fair share of luck; for instance, they scored four equalising and winning goals during second-half stoppage time.

On the whole, and to put it mildly, the Owls were gutless and inept.

The word you’re searching for, while describing Sheffield Wednesday’s performances during the 2002/2003 season, isn’t hapless, it’s hopeless.

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This feature was published by The Two Unfortunates in December 2011.

Non-web sources

Anon (2003) Diary. When Saturday Comes, January 2003, p.6-9.

Dickinson, J. (2009) Sheffield Wednesday: On This Day. Durrington: Pitch Publishing.

Dickinson, Jason and Brodie, John. (2005) The Wednesday Boys: A Definitive Who’s Who of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club 1880-2005. Sheffield: Pickard Communication.

Kyte, P. (2003) The Five-Minute: Rotherham United. When Saturday Comes, January 2003, p.46.

The Runs #5: Sheffield Wednesday (1974-76)

Derek Dooley, Sheffield Wednesday’s greatest striker, was sacked as the Owls’ manager during the 1973/1974 season. Image courtesy of Tim Dennell via Flickr.

During a football season, there’s a point when certain statistics start to become interesting.

A player’s first goal or appearance of the season may sound banal in August, but in March or April its intriguing quality tells a story about that player.

However, there’s also the reoccurring statistic of a team failing to win away from home all season.

This usually happens to the more unfashionable clubs, think of Coventry City or Grimsby Town: those that rarely achieve anything better than a late push for the playoffs.

These sorts of teams often struggle in the league; it may only be their home form that staves off the threat of relegation.

You may see Jeff Stelling, during the penultimate or last weekend of the season, claiming that they’ve finally won an away game, but sometimes this unwanted run remains unbroken.

There’s the inevitable disappointment and gallows humour associated with a scoreless draw at Gigg Lane, a hapless defeat at Ashton Gate, a last-grasp equaliser by Hereford United at Edgar Street and an occasional thrashing at Oakwell.

One season is bad enough but imagine if your team did not win an away match, in the league, for nearly two years and a total of 36 matches. That’s right: nearly TWO YEARS, during your club’s darkest hour.

Such a thing happened to Sheffield Wednesday in the mid-1970s – a run that started after a 1-0 victory at Southampton on 28 December 1974 and somehow lasted until a 1-0 win at Reading on 16 October 1976, to be precise.

In hindsight, and to be perfectly fair, it was clear such a run was coming. The 1973/1974 season, in particular, should be seen as a catalyst for Sheffield Wednesday’s sharp decline in form.

That season had started fairly ordinarily and the Owls seemed to be safe in mid-table as, by the beginning of October, they were 13th in the Second Division.

Such a position was fairly typical under the stewardship of Derek Dooley: apart from the occasional peaks and troughs in form, the Owls were stuck in mid-table mediocrity.

However, a nine-match winless run – brought on by a mystery virus that led to the Public Health Department fumigating the Owls’ showers, toilets, and dressing and medical rooms – meant that Wednesday’s league position plummeted.

By the beginning of November 1973, the club was in 18th place and, by early December, it had slipped into the relegation zone. Subsequently, Wednesday’s greatest ever player, Dooley, was sacked on Christmas Eve, of all days.

The downfall

Dooley was replaced by rookie manager Stephen Burtenshaw, formerly QPR’s chief coach.

Although, thanks to Ken Knighton’s goal against Bolton Wanderers, the Owls managed to narrowly avoided relegation, an 8-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in the 1973/1974 season’s penultimate game was an early warning sign.

The club was also facing financial difficulties as they had made a £102,000 loss on the previous season, despite a £47,000 donation from the Development Fund.

Few could have predicted how badly the 1974/1975 season went, though. Not only were Wednesday relegated to the Third Division for the first time in their history, but they started two runs after their fifth and last league win of the season at The Dell.

One was the aforementioned winless run away from home; the other was a 20-match winless run, lasting until they defeated Wrexham on 6 September 1975.

To make matters worse, in the last 17 games of the 1974/1975 season, they lost all but three of their games and scored just two goals.

There were several reasons behind the runs: most notably, the sale of influential midfielder Tommy Craig to Newcastle United in December 1974.

The club’s supporters were also unsettled; attendance figures rarely peaked beyond the 15,000 mark during the 1974/1975 season and, a season later, these figures declined further, regularly dipping below 10,000.

Despite the best efforts of the Sheffield Star’s ‘Save our Owls’ campaign in January 1975 – which tried to encourage more fans to attend matches – morale and finances were at an all-time low.

The inept Burtenshaw wasn’t blameless either, as his inability to decide upon regular partnerships in defence and attack ensured that he was as bumbling as Peter Eustace and Alan Irvine.

For instance, during the 1974/1975 season, he used six different players at right back and seven at left back, as well as four players in five different combinations in the two centre-back positions.

Meanwhile, up front, he used 13 different striking combinations, with only one of these lasting more than three matches.

To highlight how much Wednesday struggled in attacking positions, their two top goalscorers during that season – Eric McMordie and Tommy Craig, who even then only scored ten goals between them – left the club in mid-December 1974.

Unsurprisingly, it was more of the same in the Third Division. By September 1975, Burtenshaw departed Sheffield Wednesday after a poor start had left them 17th in the table.

And, rather inevitably, when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they did.

A tough manager

Step forward, Len Ashurst. The former Hartlepool United manager – whose coaching schedule seemed to largely consist of runs in the moors and military-style roll calls – certainly didn’t make a good first impression.

Another hopeless run, this time consisting of one win out of 14 matches, ensured that the Owls were rooted in the relegation zone by January 1976. They eventually escaped relegation to the Fourth Division, via a 20th-place finish, but the away run continued.

During the 1975/1976 season, they failed to register an away win in the league after losing 13 matches and drawing another ten. However, it must be said that a number of these draws were scoreless at the likes of Shrewsbury Town and Halifax Town.

Although the Owls conceded 34 goals in 23 away games – which is fairly respectable for a side that finished in the bottom five – they only scored 14, highlighting the extent of their toothless showings in the final third.

Thankfully, during the 1976/1977 season, Jeffrey Johnson’s winner at Elm Park ended the Owls’ near 22-month winless run away from home and their league form began to improve.

Although Wednesday only registered seven away wins during the 1976/1977 season, they achieved an eighth-place finish and Ashurst’s overhaul of the club’s youth policy benefited Jack Charlton and Howard Wilkinson during their spells in charge.

From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, Sheffield Wednesday were a regular fixture in the first tier of English football, though history has repeated itself in recent years with financial problems and struggles in the third tier.

But, despite this, it’s unlikely they’ll ever repeat this away record from the mid-1970s:

L, L, L, L, D, L, L, D, L, L, L, L, L, D, L, L, D, D, L, D, D, D, L, D, D, L, L, L, L, D, L, D, L, L, D, D.

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This feature was published by Magic Spongers in December 2011.

Non-web sources

Armstrong, G. (2000) Naked Sheff Rivalry. When Saturday Comes, August 2000, p.32-34.

Bateman, Rob and Taphouse, Gary. (2000) Opta Football Yearbook, 2000-2001. London: Carlton Books.

Dickinson, J. (2010) Sheffield Wednesday Miscellany. Durrington: Pitch Publishing.

Dickinson, Jason and Brodie, John. (2005) The Wednesday Boys: A Definitive Who’s Who of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club 1880-2005. Sheffield: Pickard Communication.

Farnsworth, K. (1987) Sheffield Wednesday: A Complete Record 1867-1987. Derby: Breedon Books.

Goldstein, D. (ed) (2000) The Rough Guide To English Football: A Fans’ Handbook 2000-2001. 2nd edition. London: Rough Guides.

Gordon, D. (1995) A Quarter of Wednesday: A New History of Sheffield Wednesday 1970-1995. Sheffield: Wednesday Publishing.

Lightfoot, G. (2003) Steady Decline To Eternal Agony: Sheffield Wednesday 1974-75. When Saturday Comes, February 2003, p.33.