Date: 11th April 2007 at 1:40am
Written by:

A magical day: the story told by John Perryman (Vital SWFC forum member s11owl).

Millennium Stadium, May 2005: at the age of 15 it’s my first final. At the age of 16 today, Drew Talbot rounding a stricken Dimitrios Konstantopoulos is still the memory of my life.

We pull up in Cardiff City’s car park, to be greeted by hundreds of Wednesdayites, all who seem just as barmy as I’d hoped they’d be. One man has painted blue stripes on his white Transit van, others sell merchandise out of car boots and from stalls. After purchasing a large flag, to add to the one I’d made earlier, and a horn, we were on our way to the Millennium Stadium.

We arrive at the ground, and after many minutes hard climbing, we reached the top of the staircase. As I emerged from inside the stadium, a sea of blue and white can be seen all around me. Only one word can describe it: breathtaking. With my brother in tow, I set off in an attempt to find a spot to place my HUGE homemade flag. Made in a rush the night before, 2 double white sheets sewn together, with the words ‘Quinn, Bromby, Geary, stuck at the Lane, we’ll beat em’ next year with Stevie MacLean’ painted on in thick black paint. After a debate with one of the stewards, we were told the only place our flag would fit was the far top corner of the stadium, the only place where there were empty seats. So off I trotted, round the stadium, praying that when I reached the other side, the stewards would allow me to put it up. They did. Result no. 1 secured. Just as I sit back down in my seat, I hear MacLean’s on the bench. Hope seeps through my body.

To be honest, most of the first half of the game is a bit of a blur, the excitement of the occasion and the nerves restrict me from fully remembering it. However when Rocky got to the by-line and squared the ball heroically for JP to smash home, I fully remember 41,000 people going absolutely mental, like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Half time – all i recollect at this point is my mum handing me a bottle of Coke, and me not being able to drink it due to feeling absolutely sick.

Second half – disaster, 2 fairly early goals from the ‘Pool and thoughts of ‘typical old Wednesday’ entered my head. Close to tears and severely hacked off, I remember thinking ‘The car journey home is gonna be crap unless we score’. Bizarre what you think at moments like that eh?

Lifeline – Steve MacLean, Drew Talbot and Paddy Collins enter the field of play. Hope once more spreads through my body. Back months before expected and nowhere near fully fit, Macca would have been the one player I would have chosen to have on the pitch over any other. King Paul Sturrock’s three-way switch pays off. Macca collects the ball from a throw in, lays it off to JP who whips the ball in, Talbot controls, spins and then is savagely hauled over by Westwood. The Hartlepool man sees red, literally. Heart-in-mouth moment. My previous feeling of nausea is suddenly dwarfed by my current feeling that my stomach and heart are trying to escape out of my mouth. Never before have I ever felt this ill, without actually being so. Macca steps up… smacks it… Konstantopoulos gets a hand to it, only to deflect it home. Hartlepool 2, Wednesday 2. Feelings of pure elation swiftly replace the sickly feeling. With the scores tied, and with a extra man advantage, surely we were in the driving seat?

Extra time – during the break before the start of extra time I remember watching Sturrock going round the players, giving each of them instructions and encouragement, while they lay flat on their backs, legs waving in the air, a last ditch attempt to find a last source of energy.

The football’s back underway and a long ball down field finds a ‘Pool defender: apparently a man on a mission, and in an attempt to skin Whelan on halfway, he loses the ball. Whelan advances on the opposition’s goal, cuts inside, rides a challenge and then lashes it with the outside of his left boot. I was right behind the ball and watched it fly straight into the top corner. The goal of the day, comfortably. Crazy head/hand dancing commences again, Whelo kisses the badge on his shirt. The Wednesday faithful all follow suit, and for a moment everyone’s troubles in the Owls half of the ground are forgotten. Could anything top this feeling?

There was still 20 or so minutes to hang on though, and hang on we did. It reached the last minute of extra time: another long ball from the back, and a mis-timed header from the Hartlepool centre-back lets Talbot nip in and steal the ball. Bearing down on goal, charging towards 40,000 suddenly silent Wednesdayites, he dummies the defender, side-steps Konstantopoulos and places the ball into an empty net. A roar erupts around the stadium. The moment of my life is realised.

To this day, watching the ‘Look North’ piece on the day in Cardiff, watching Lee Bullen lift the League One playoff final trophy, watching Steve MacLean dancing around the pitch with Lee Peacock, watching 40,000 Sheffielders going ballistic and watching Whelo and JP’s crazy hand/head dance still makes all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The pure elation at the final whistle, contrasting with the sickening feeling I had only minutes previously is something I haven’t experienced since.

Up the Owls…. Who needs Mourinho? We had Paul Sturrocko.

‘Quinn, Bromby, Geary, stuck at the Lane, we’ll beat em’ next year with Stevie MacLean’. It could still happen.

Hartlepool: Konstantopoulos, Nelson, Westwood, Robson, Butler (Williams 31), Barron (Craddock 61), Strachan, Porter (Daly 70), Sweeney, Boyd, Humphreys. Subs Not Used: Provett, Tinkler.

Sent Off: Westwood (81).

Goals: Williams 47, Daly 71.

Sheff Wed: Lucas, Bullen, Heckingbottom, Wood, Bruce (Collins 77), Whelan, McGovern, Brunt, Rocastle, Peacock (Talbot 77), Quinn (MacLean 77). Subs Not Used: Adamson, Adams.

Goals: McGovern 45, MacLean 82 pen, Whelan 94, Talbot 120.

Attendance: 59,808

Ref: P Crossley (Kent).

Read more about classic Wednesday matches and memories in our Archive here.