Ten years ago, Owls fans had a season much like the one we’ve just witnessed, although at Premiership level.
Off the back of a creditable performance the previous season, 1997/8 (like 2007/8) began with a terrible start. Losses to Newcastle and (oh, the embarrassment) at home to Leeds instantly put David Pleat’s side on the back foot. A point rescued by Paolo Di Canio away at Wimbledon gave travelling Owls fans (including myself) some relief that day.. but a greater shock was to come.
Next up, a tough test for any Premiership team: a Bank Holiday Monday evening game at Blackburn. I lived in Brighton at the time, had to be in London bright and early the following day but hey, it’s a Bank Holiday: what’s a guy to do but have a few jars in the afternoon with his mates?
The particular pub we’d settled into had great beer.. but no Sky. Kick off time approached, and no one else cared about the football but me. I hadn’t set the video: earlier in the day I was convinced I’d watch the game somewhere in town. I racked my beer-fuddled brain but there was no Sky screen nearer than my house and as I’d left it far too late, that’s where I had to go, and quickly. Extricating myself from the good company and ales round about the time the teams were coming out, and ignoring calls to stay, I legged it up the hill and home. I knew I’d be late, but I wouldn’t miss much. Six, maybe eight, minutes tops. No problem.
Into the house, on with the TV.
We’re two down.
As I found out during the half time re-run, Kevin Gallacher headed home a Stuart Ripley corner for the first and finished off a cool Jason Wilcox pass for the second. Shattered. My heart in my boots already, another pressing need took over.. get rid of the beer. Quickly upstairs for a pish.
I’m out of the room. Benito Carbone pulls one back (Paolo Di Canio crossed for Guy Whittingham to provide the assist). I missed it.
Three goals have gone in and I’ve not seen any of them.
Well, never mind. 2-1: I settled into my armchair. Come on, we can do this, we’re back in the..
Graham Hyde heads into his own net. Ten minutes gone. 3-1 down.
Ewood Park is rocking and further misery was piled on. 19 minutes: Gallacher crosses from the right to Chris Sutton who lays the ball on for Wilcox to score. Five minutes later Sutton gets in on the act himself for his fourth of the season, and Blackburn had been totally rampant for half an hour.
At which time, Andy Booth takes a knock and David Pleat brings on.. Steve Nicol. Oh that’s going to work fine, Pleat, what are you trying to do, defend a lead we don’t have? I’m sure there was a reason for it, but it was lost on me at the time. Too subtle for me, maybe.
Paolo did miss a golden opportunity shortly after though, played in by Beni. And that gave me hope. Half time, 5-1 down and I still think we can rescue it. You do, don’t you? Sometimes it just happens: call it blind faith but you still think your team can do it.
Whistle blows, second half, game on. Wayne Collins and David Hirst come on for Des Walker and Guy Whittingham. I am now totally tactically baffled by our manager. Let’s face it though, look on the bright side, it can’t get any worse. But what’s this? Oh my lord! Beni blasts in a 30 yard screamer, I’m out of my seat and the revival is definitely on. We’re looking lively, at least. We’re 5-2 down but showing promise. We can do it.
And then, if it hadn’t gone pear-shaped enough, the match becomes a giant inflatable 40 foot high pear with the words ‘you should have stayed in the pub’ printed on it.
Gallacher finds Lars Bohinen at the back post for him to score the sixth. Beni gets sent off on the hour for butting Gallacher. Ripley crosses for Sutton to complete the rout, 7-2. There’s still 15 minutes to go. Glassy eyed and immobile, I watch the rest of the game. I physically can’t move. I’ve done ten rounds with Mike Tyson and I don’t want to get up. I’ve had worse Wednesday experiences, but..
Ten years ago, we finished just above the relegation spots, much like this season. The years to come were hard ones, but we got through them. Time is a healer, and I’d discover many moments of joy along the way in later years to lessen the pain of nights like the Blackburn game. If there is a lesson, it’s this: make sure you enjoy the good times, and have faith. Take the hard knocks, and come back stronger than ever. It’s what being a fan is all about, isn’t it?
I’m glad I didn’t stay in the pub that night.
Blackburn: Filan (Flowers 64), Kenna, Hendry, Ripley, Gallacher, Sutton, Wilcox (Dahlin 57), Flitcroft, McKinlay (Bohinen 44), Pearce, Valery. Subs not used: Andersson, Broomes
Sheffield Wednesday: Pressman, Atherton, Nolan, Newsome, Walker (Collins 46), Whittingham (Hirst 46), Carbone, Booth (Nicol 32), Di Canio, Hyde, Blondeau. Subs not used: Oakes, Clarke
Booked: Hyde, Carbone, Hirst
Sent off: Carbone
Referee: Jeff Winter
Read more about classic Wednesday matches and memories in our Archive here.