Blast From The Past - 1979
This weekend's trip to Leicester will, whatever the result, be a memorable occasion - not for the first time!
For many Wednesday supporters, Leicester has been a favourite away location across the last three decades whether it be Filbert Street or the newer Walkers Stadium. Much of this affection stems from the 3rd round cup classic against Arsenal in 1979. Of course back in those days Wednesday were a 3rd Division club and Arsenal a somewhat dour 1st Division giant (in old league table currency). AND in those days cup games were NEVER decided on penalties - you just kept playing through extra time - and if that didn't resolve the fixture then come back next week (or in some cases later the same week) and play again.
The original January game at Hillsborough is most memorable, not for the Jeff Johnson goal, or the 1-1 draw, but for the serious snowballing attack that Pat Jennings received from the Kop when he came out for the second half! Big Jack Charlton, who had arrived at the club a few months earlier, had to go onto the field and ask the supporters to call a halt to the fun which they obligingly did, until Jack turned to head back to the dug out... Jennings was not amused!
Of course a 1-1 draw was a decent result but no one gave Wednesday a hope in the replay. Surprisingly the Owls almost hung onto a first half Roger Wylde lead, with Arsenal equalizing in the final minutes. That denied Wednesday their first win at Highbury since 1962 (which now we can refer to as their last win at Highbury) - but their late goal did set up the series of three games at Filbert Street.
With Arsenal expected to finally ease through the tricky encounter there was little media interest in game number 3, and few Arsenal supporters bothered to make the journey to Filbert Street - the tight Leicester ground was dominated by blue and white, creating a superb atmosphere. The game ended 2-2. When, a few days later, the teams returned the ground had already become a second home to the Owls supporters and on the most special of evenings Wednesday produced a heroic and emotional display (well I still get emotional about it!) that ended in a 3-3 draw. This was truly the re-birth of SWFC, a new life that would culminate many years later in Premiership football, Cup Finals and European appearances. Two months after the 3-3 draw Big Jack would sign Terry Curran and ignite the spark that would deliver promotion from the old 3rd Division - but it was that evening that gave back to Wednesday supporters their pride, their belonging and their belief.
By the 4th replay and the fifth game the media were all over the tie and the North Londoners realized they had better bring a crowd to the 'New Hillsborough'. For the first time in the marathon, a two goal lead was established - as Arsenal finally showed their class. But the boys in blue and white ran them hard. I have always been convinced that if Wednesday had managed to pull one goal back then the supporters would have carried them through to an equalizer and maybe a victory or a game 6... but it wasn't to be.
Arsenal went on to win the cup that year - in a way they deserved it!
My abiding memory is the players and the manager leaving the pitch at the end of that evening, the Wednesday supporters, every one of them still in the stands, singing over and over and over again 'we're proud of you' - and they knew we meant it.
Let's hope we have the opportunity to leave the 2008 class of Wednesday players with the same feeling on Saturday.
Read more about classic Wednesday matches and memories in our Archive here
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