Phil O'Brien
bring back the 90s

Memories of golden era return as Sheffield Wednesday are in play-off mix

Between 1991 and 1994, the club possessed a litany of excellent players and were an impressive side.

WHEN YOU TAKE a peek at Sheffield Wednesday’s form through a four-year stretch of the early to mid-nineties, it’s an impressive list.

League Cup winners in 1991. Second Division promotion in 1991. A third-place finish in Division 1 in 1992. Runners-up in the League Cup and FA Cup in 1993. Successive 7th-place Premier League finishes in 1993 and 1994.

But ever since, the magic has faded. The club suffered relegation in 2000 and haven’t been back in the top-flight since. In 2004, they dropped to League One. In 2010, they were back there.

However, their form in the Championship has been solid over the past twelve months. Last year, it looked like they might get back to the Premier League but they were beaten by Hull in the play-off final at Wembley.

This term, they’re still in promotion contention and sit in sixth right now. Tonight they comprehensively beat Birmingham, a result that brings them within two points of Leeds United.

The club’s owner is Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri, who took over in 2015. He talked of a ‘two-year plan’ and invested plenty of cash. He also changed the management and brought in Portuguese boss Carlos Carvalhal. Though the club over-achieved, last season’s run was encouraging and there was more heavy spending this season.

Jordan Rhodes arrived on loan from Middlesbrough but will join permanently for £10m in the summer – the second time this year that the club have broken their transfer record.

It’s a big commitment to get Wednesday back among the elite.

It’s 25 years since the last golden era delivered some superb players and standout memories. And what might it been like had then-managed Trevor Francis taken the risk on controversial French striker called Eric Cantona and signed him?

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Cantona spent a week on trial with the club but a deal was never likely to materialise as Wednesday’s salaries were still at a Division Two standard.

Still, it made for a decent yarn.

And the club had a decent collection of talent regardless. Ironically, Cantona would never have ended up at Manchester United had Sir Alex Ferguson got his way and prised David Hirst away from Wednesday.

Soccer - FA Carling Premiership - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United Ross Kinnaird Ross Kinnaird

For four successive seasons, he was their top scorer but a broken ankle picked up in 1992 was the start of his torrid injury problems and he would battle fitness issues for the remainder of his career.

Elsewhere, there was a terrific mix. Chris Waddle was exciting and full of deft touches and marvellous crosses. Mark Bright was top-scorer in 1993, 1994 and 1995 – a powerful, imposing weapon up top and a neat contrast with Hirst. John Sheridan was a composed, astute figure in the middle of the park while Carlton Palmer was full of energy and a combative ball-winner. Paul Warhurst was the new kid on the block and his well-documented form in his two years at Hillsborough led to a title-winning move to Blackburn Rovers. At the back, there was steel and uncompromising toughness in the form of Nigel Worthington and Viv Anderson. And behind the defence was Chris Woods – a magnificent goalkeeper, whose ability was never better showcased than in the famous clash with Manchester United at the end of the 1992/93 season.

TheBoffrington / YouTube

The run lasted until 1995, when they finished in mid-table obscurity. There wasn’t enough investment in the squad and, given the likes of Blackburn and Newcastle were spending big, the likes of Wednesday and others were left behind.

There was a brief resurrection under David Pleat in 1997, when there were new signings made – like Andy Booth from Huddersfield and Benito Carbone from Inter Milan and impressive, encouraging youngsters like Richie Humphries given a chance. And another 7th-place finish ensued.

But even with the arrival of Paolo di Canio, it couldn’t lift the funk and relegation followed a number of years later.

They’ve been a long time away. But with their form over the last year, maybe another resurrection isn’t such an optimistic thought.

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