Blast From The Past - 1993
The 92/93 season proved to be the high water mark for Trevor Francis' reign as manager at Hillsborough. 7th in the top division, Europe and two Cup Final appearances promised so much to the Wednesday faithful, but Francis was to suffer two years later for not building on that promise and delivering further success.
While Francis's teams never quite hit those dizzy heights again, a run of 26 games with just two defeats in 93/94 really turned Wednesday's season around. One match in particular sticks in the memory: possibly the finest ever individual performance by a Wednesday player.
It was December 18th, and a crowd of more than 26000 would be given an early Christmas present by one Christopher Roland Waddle, who handed a footballing masterclass to unfortunate opponents West Ham United.
Classic though it ultimately became, the game took a while to get into gear. The returning Andy Pearce looked solid in defence, giving Carlton Palmer license to roam a little further than he otherwise might. Chris Bart Williams looked good in the early stages, and some glorious interplay with Palmer produced the best early chance for Waddle: not taken. Wednesday comfortably resisted what the Hammers threw at them, whilst not making anything of further chances that came their way in the first half hour.
The Owls won a couple of corners which came to nothing, but then the breakthrough: Waddle floated a cross into the far post, Pearce rose and thumped a header on to the bar and in off Mike Marsh. Finally some reward for the Owls, but the half ended at a slow pace, Palmer getting himself booked as it ground to a close.
Let the games begin.
Wednesday kicked off facing the Kop - Nilsson won the ball and fed Waddle. The Hammers defence had pushed higher up the pitch to support Owls old boy Lee Chapman up front, a fatal tactic. Unchallenged, Waddle played a delightful ball into the centre, perfectly weighted to meet Mark Bright's well timed run, and inside the six yard box, Bright punched the ball past Miklosko.
There was much more to come.
Four minutes later, Waddle picked up the ball on the edge of the centre circle, strode forward and with the Hammers defence frozen in fear, loosed off a shot from 25 yards, along the ground, which brushed Miklosko's right hand upright and into the net for the third.
Wednesday now knew what was good for them, and fed the flying winger at every available opportunity. David Burrows was the 'rabbit in the headlights', and despite frequent assistance from Morley, had no answer to the skills of Wednesday wizard Waddle as he rampaged down the right.
Twenty minutes left on the clock: another mazy run from the relentless Waddle saw the ball come back off a baffled Burrows' shins and squared to Jemson who planted the ball in the net from close range.
If it hadn't been an exhibition before that, the match then turned into one. Bart-Williams got in on the act, selling a dummy to Chapman, and the Wednesday midfield gave one of the best displays of passing football ever seen at Hillsborough. Palmer applied the coup de grace, played through by Nilsson and rifling the ball home, prompting shouts of 'we want six' in the closing moments, until the whistle blew..
Heaven only knows why Waddle couldn't make the England squad at that time. The changes of direction, the acceleration, the total command of the football, beating defenders, the vision, picking out colleagues at will.. and scoring too. The best we've seen, and one of the best ever.
Think I'm exaggerating? Click here and think again.
The Wednesday fans that day were truly walking in a Waddle wonderland.
Sheffield Wednesday: Pressman, Nilsson, Walker, Pearce, Worthington, Waddle, Hyde, Palmer, Bart-Williams, Jemson, Bright. Subs not used: Poric, Watson, Woods (gk).
Goals: Marsh og (35), Bright (47), Waddle (51), Jemson (72), Palmer (87).
West Ham United: Miklosko, Breacker, Gale, Potts, Burrows, Marsh, Bishop (Allen 75), Butler, Holmes (Boere 67), Chapman, Morley. Sub used: Peyton (gk).
Referee: D Frampton.