The Owls are the fifth oldest League club in England formed in 1867.The only club with a day of a week in it’s name it was formed by a group who played cricket every Wednesday who wanted to get a football team together so they could keep fit during the winter months.
Their original name of ‘The Wednesday’ became Sheffield Wednesday in 1923 and only a few years later it was their most successful period in their history winning 2 league titles and also the FA Cup in 1935.
Their supporters have witnessed contrasting fortunes of a team at both extremes of the League. At their worst, a period of mediocrity in which they were close to being relegated in 1976 and they had to beat Southend to stay in the then Division 3(which they did).In the same season their crowds fell to an all time low of 6,905 v Colchester but a year later they were rejuvenated under the stewardship of Jack Charlton which culminated in promotion in 1980. One of the highlights that season was what is regarded in Wednesday folklore as the ‘Boxing Day Massacre’ a 4-0 win versus Sheffield United in front of over 49,000 which is a record attendance that still stands to this day for a Third Division game.
The rivalry with Sheffield United is as intense as any in the country but is perhaps not so well known outside the city due to the lack of historical success of both teams.However the potential of Sheffield football was there for all to see when the blue and the red halves of the city invaded Wembley en masse for an FA Cup Semi Final in 1993.
It was a great time to be an Owls fan who really were singing the blues in the early nineties rubbing shoulders with the Manchester Uniteds and the Arsenals of this world at the top of the Premiership. The likes of Chrissy Waddle, David Hirst, Roland Nilsson were international players who wore the blue and white stripes with pride. Great memories, but it all went pear shaped as much of the team were replaced by lower quality players.It was a struggle from now on in as Wednesday fell back down to League 1.
Financially they were feeling the after effects of higher league status and like so many clubs these days spending fortunes to try to again reach the promised land of the Premiership . Instead their debts were mounting considerably to such an extent that in November 2010 they faced a winding up petition from the HM Revenue and Customs. Sheffield Wednesday were struggling to find a suitable buyer and the intervention of Milan Mandaric had saved the club from administration.
It was one of the darkest period in the club’s history, but from that low point, progress has been made with moving back up to the Championship in 2012 when the Owls beat Wycombe 2-0 to gain promotion at the expense of their city rivals.
The tragic events of the 15th April 1989 where 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives casts a shadow over Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground and should never be forgotten.At that time it was considered one of the premier football stadiums in the country ,and had hosted FA Cup semi finals for many years as well as the World Cup in 1966.
For the Wednesday fans Hillsborough is a place where they collectively share their passion for the club which has been through so much history. Originally in 1899 it was called Owlerton which then was outside Sheffield. Though by 1914 when it was renamed Hillsborough the city had expanded and the ground was swallowed within it’s suburbs.Back in 1934 the ground held a capacity of 73,000 and a record crowd of 72,841 witnessed an FA Cup fifth round game against Manchester City.
Part of Hillsborough’s charm lies in the 4 different size stands of varying character developed at different times in contrast to the modern bowls that new stadiums look like these days.
The main stand is the South Stand which opened back in 1914 but the copper ball displaying Wednesday’s foundation in 1867 is at the pinnacle of a central gable.The roof was rebuilt in 1996 as a new tier of 3,200 seats was added above corporate boxes in a Grandstand section for the European Championships which were in England that year.
To it’s right the steeply banked Spion Kop was where you found the most hardened Wednesday support particularly which it was lashing down with rain ! A roof was finally built as late as 1986 where the Queen came to the opening ceremony. On the whole the view is an impressive one behind the goal but make sure you don’t get a seat too close to the 2 pylons that support the Kop roof.
As an Owls season ticket holder, in my opinion, the best legroom has to go to the North Stand and when it was built in 1961 was years ahead of it’s time in terms of it’s cantilever design.It eliminated the need of any pylons and therefore has a glorious uninterrupted view of the pitch unlike many of the stands in the football grounds of the time it was built.
Probably the most famous (or infamous stand) is the West Stand or Leppings Lane End where the 1989 tragedy occurred.This was built in 1963 and has a upper tier of seats and and a lower tier which was converted into seats after the tragedy. The official capacity is over 39,800 but the reality is segregation of the away end reduces this to a little over 38,000.These days the visitors allocation is around 4,500.
It is possible for a tour of the Hillsborough ground which takes place at every Saturday when there is a home game on. It costs £10 and the comprehensive tour lasts for for over 2 hours.
The challenge for Wednesday currently is to get a team to start filling their ground whose average for the last few years has consistently been just over 50 per cent of it’s capacity.
In 2015 Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri took over the club from Milan Mandaric and at the time of writing looks as if they will reach a mid table position in the Championship. Owls fans are for the first time in many years looking forward to the summer period with optimism.
More money has been promised for the team to be competitive and Wednesday will be hoping for the sort players that will bring about a successful team. Getting some more of those seats filled in Hillsborough will I’m sure be a priority in their quest for promotion back to the promised land of the Premier League and all the riches it now brings.