'Watching the telly and thinking about your holidays..' - four weeks holiday in England, in fact, and I had to get a match in.
I looked at the fixture list and there was a large hole in it: damn the international break! The Owls hadn't make it past the Millers in the Carling, which left two matches I could find time to see - home vs. Watford, away vs. Reading. Fortunately, I picked Watford for my first sight of Wednesday in five years (a new life in New Zealand intervening).
September 13th, Saturday morning. Fortified by a family-sized bucket of milky coffee in the gleaming chrome and glass halls of St. Pancras (what happened to all the grimy bricks and stinky trains?), gazing up at the departure board to find the 8:25am to Sheffield, grab a Guardian to read. A big proper newspaper, lovely, we don't have em in New Zealand. The journey goes quickly, through the mighty footballing strongholds of Luton, Leicester and Derby.. text to Nick to say I'm on my way out of the station and a call back - 'We're outside by the water feature'. Water feature? They never had those in town when I was a lad.. rain, yes. Water features, no. Introductions all round, and also connect up with Vital SWFCer aussie2005 who was on my train, as it happened.
Right, pub. On to the Deep End... what? It's a Wetherspoons? Hmm, Well, you know best. In we go: at least there'll be a big selection of drinks and it'll be reasonably cheap. What? Pink strawberry cider with ice in a big glass? Blimey, Sheffield has changed, and not always for the better. My usual brown session beer, landlord, in a controlled manner so as not to lead to bladder overload (look, I've come 12000 miles for this, I don't want to spend all the match in the Kop toilets, thank you very much). A few sketchy jokes to go along with the sketchy drinks and meet with more Vital SWFCers: S8 Owls S8 and NicNac, on her way to her matchday job at the Hillsborough turnstiles. All very congenial and good to finally put some faces to forum names.
Off to the stadium as the excitement builds: a brief dalliance to dispense with used beer and for the hungry ones to buy overpriced food (stadiums, cinemas, trains, the world over it's always the same) and then.. on to the Kop, in glorious sunshine to soak up some of that much missed atmosphere. It's a great feeling, even in a 17000+ crowd, you can't beat Hillsborough on a lovely bright day (note to board: lower prices means more in the ground, sell more food, sell more merchandise, keep those fans coming back - easy intit?).
You know all about the match. The first quarter hour completely dire from all 22, and I'm not looking forward to another 75 minutes of the same, but suddenly a rush and a push and Marcus is wheeling away from the scrum in front of goal at the Leppings Lane end, arm aloft, and we all go up in acclaim and relief, it's 1-0 to the Wednesday and all is well with the world.
The Owls get some belief from it and Watford continue to be rubbish - if I was a Glory Hornet Boy I'd fear for my young team this season, but thankfully that's not a problem I have to face. JJ and EE start to run at them, and it scares the bejasus out of Watford every time they do. The end product's not quite there, but the blue and white wizards are at least on the front foot.
Second half, Watford are still rubbish. Slightly faster and more agitated rubbish, I grant you, but Wednesday can easily cope. Solid game from young McMahon I thought, Wood pretty much in charge, Grant really not troubled at all. No bother.
And on 55 mins, our Tommy waltzes through the Hornets, collecting a pass from the Dutch master and slapping the ball past Poom, right in front of us. Up we go again, cos that's our boy doing the scoring.. he only scores great goals, does Tommy.
Then the scoreboard goes doo-lally. I'd looked at it and thought 'this game is going really slowly' - as it turned out, it wasn't the game, it was the clock. Then it's up there in lights: Watford are apparently leading by two goals and the scoreboard is operating in a parallel universe. I just pray someone or something is keeping time.. a late Hornets leveller in the 17th minute of unrecorded injury time would not be good.
More huffing and puffing from Watford and a couple of subsitutions (not sure why Boothroyd swapped them, they were probably tired out from shrugging and whining to the ref, it wasn't because they'd played any football), Wednesday continue to press, Woody nearly grabs one and Waders and Lean Leon come on for a brief rumble at the end (JJ goes off to a standing ovation, the lad might not always have the right final ball but his application and adventure in this match was something to see).. the whistle goes and warm applause rings out. Marvellous. Thanks Hillsborough, thanks Wednesday, thanks Brian, thanks lads.. a grand day out.
Regretfully I can't stick around and booze it up as I'm on my travels again the following day. A pause to wait for Aussie, who spots a gaggle of fans with Mark Beevers in the car park and gently nudging grandmas and kids out of the way, grabs a photo with glee. We tram it back to the station and say our goodbyes. Re-living the day, Aussie and I are clickety-clacking south past Derby, looking over at Pride Park and we check the mobile.. Derby 2 Blades 1, which really puts the Jam on it.
I should come back more often.