Vital SWFc forum member sterland02 takes us back to the 80s, and a classic encounter with a high-flying Everton side.
I remember the famous Sheffield Wednesday vs Brighton semi final in the early 80’s, but the 1986 one against Everton at Villa Park was my first experience of a live semi final game. Everton at the time were a slick outfit, contesting their 3rd semi final in a row. They were going into the game having already beaten us three times that season, with a goal tally of nine for, with only two in reply… knowing this, it was sure to be a hard game for the Owls.
I was 11. I remember my dad asking me to put his car keys on the side board: he’d already put the tickets there for me to see! Whoa, the excitement of going to Villa Park! Come the big day, we got a lift to town and had a drink in Cole Brothers (a big treat at the time) before making our way to the train station to join the hundreds queuing for the journey. Hmm, those trains… they stick in my mind for two reasons. 1) their advanced age, and 2) when we were on board, the police kept us just outside Birmingham for half an hour in a dark tunnel, with barely any of the interior lights working! The joys of being a football fan in the 80s!
When we got to Villa Park and found our seats in the old family enclosure, I had to put up with 2 drunks in front of us fall on me, after they’d tried to jump up and down on their seat! The crowd was massive, 47,000 in the ground, and there were people trying to climb on the floodlight pylons in our corner.
Imagine our joy when we heard Everton would be missing both the mighty Neville Southall and Gary Lineker, this coupled with Trevor Steven having to go off after half an hour: the Owls fans thought they might just have a chance. We were missing legendary winger Brian Marwood though, which was a worry. Half time came and there was no score, but that was soon to change.
Everton took the lead through Alan Harper, but the mighty Carl Shutt on the back of some excellent displays, equalised only two minutes later from a header, finishing a great move begun from a Peter Shirtliff free kick.
We were back in the game, but extra time beckoned and Everton were a hard team to break down. They showed their class in extra time, Graeme Sharp scoring at the end of the first period of injury time.
It wasn’t that Wednesday played badly, just that they came up against a better team on the day. The Owls failed to capitalise on three golden chances before the end, those falling to Megson, Chamberlain and Shirtliff, and we were finally beaten 2-1.
The train journey home that night was a nightmare: I don’t think anyone spoke! I remember seeing Graeme Sharp’s photo in the match programme, and I have always held a slight grudge!
Howard Wilkinson wrote in the following Saturday’s programme notes ‘the disappointment afterwards was devastating, footballers come in for some stick justifiably sometimes, for their lack of professional commitment and loyalty, but the uncontrolled and spontaneous tears shed after the end on Saturday were deep, sincere expressions of desperate and genuine disappointment’.
Wednesday went on to win five of their last seven league games and draw the other two. We would have qualified for the UEFA Cup if not for the Heysel ban, but Mr Wilkinson’s comments have stayed with me to this day. As fans of Sheffield Wednesday, we endure a lot of heartache, but all we ask is that the team show us loyalty and commitment: these qualities were found by the bucketload in that 1986 team.
Read more about classic Wednesday matches and memories in our Archive here.