Derby day nerves quickly gather pace
Vital writer Chris Mace continues the build-up to Sunday's big Steel City derby clash at Hillsborough by offering his memories, and hopes, of the big day.
Derby day evokes so many memories for so many people.
Being such a sprightly age, I am unable to recall the festive period of 1979, so many of my memories are relatively recent. We all tend to remember the good times. Sodje opening the scoring in the 2-0 cake walk at Hillsborough, Tudgay letting fly from 35-yards to win at the Lane for the first time in decades and, the peak of these memories for me, the Waddle free-kick and Brighty's header in extra time to seal the semi final at Wembley.
Growing up on the south side of Sheffield meant that Owls at school were slightly outnumbered. This meant, of course, that the wrong result in a derby would be disastrous for the coming weeks, and life could become quite miserable. This has left me with an underlying nervousness come the week of the game. When the fixtures are released, it's the first date I look for, and for the months leading up to it.
I excitedly think about it, but something changes once our preceding match is over. As soon as I know that our next game is the big one, something comes over me and I spend the week having sleepless nights, cold sweats, daydreams at work, arguments with the wife and uncontrollable vomiting (some of this may be actually true). I spend the week playing out the possibilities in my mind: what the team selection will be, where our major threats are, how we deal with their key players, so that by the time the game actually kicks off, my mind has played the full 90 minute fixture out several times.
One of the feelings that often sweeps over me is 'as long as we don't lose'. I guess this goes back to these days at school where a draw would mean relative peace and harmony in the playground with neither group having absolute bragging rights. A draw isn't the result I spend the week dreaming about. Being a football supporter is all about hopes and dreams, most of which never come to fruition, but the slightest of possibilities keeps us going week in, week out.
For a moment, let's think about the best possible scenario on Sunday for the Owls:
Despite poor form running into the game, Wednesday emerge as convincing winners and spirits are subsequently high at S6 leading to a complete turnaround in fortunes. Wednesday embark on a great run to the end of the season, sealing automatic promotion, whilst our rivals go on to struggle for the remainder of the season and their previous good form capitulates into disappointment come May. Wednesday march on, quickly gaining promotion again and return to the Premier League whilst our rivals languish in the lower divisions for almost a decade.
As ridiculous as this sounds, and as small as this possibility is, it sounds a lot like what happened following the match of Boxing Day 1979.
It's very unlikely that the result this Sunday will have such a dramatic effect on the fortunes of either club, but maybe, just maybe lightning could strike twice.
Our players have an amazing opportunity, and I hope some of them realise this, and play on Sunday like their entire career depends on it. Because it does! If the ultimate dream comes to pass then the names of these players will live long in the memory. Some of them (no disrespect) will never play above League One and this could seriously be the pinnacle of their career - they could achieve legend status at one of the biggest clubs in England, and a 90 minute football match could decide it.
But ultimately...I'm still nervous!