Blast From The Past - 1961
Vital SWFC forum member YorkySWFC harks back to a Fairs Cup tie at Hillsborough in the Swinging Sixties, in a tale entitled..
A Nod's As Good As A Wink
As soon as Granddad and me had got off the bus from Pond St, we found ourselves immersed in a wash of supporters who were either gyrating noisy wooden rattles or being even more annoying and blowing ear-shattering bugles. And it was then that I realised that many spoke with a language I had only previously heard on a John Mills war movie.
'They`re 'I-ties' son', said Granddad. 'From Rome.'
I had visited his beloved Wednesday a few times previously and although I was accustomed to seeing big crowds at Hillsborough, he had noticed that I was looking decidedly uncomfortable amongst the rather boisterous yet colourful fans of AS Roma.
'Don't worry son', Granddad told me 'We're gonna crucify them for a change'.
With his arm firmly around my shoulders he steered me towards the same spot on the Leppings Lane terrace where he supported 'The Wednesday', as he always insists, for several decades. That's where the majority of the Italian fans had also congregated. There was no segregation: you could stand where you wanted and rarely was there any crowd trouble.
Indeed, Granddad assured me of this and even went so far as to share one of his re-rolled Woodbines with one of the Roma fans, and then proceeded to demonstrate his linguistic capabilities with the unfortunate souls who were nearest to him. They were a good bunch of supporters and even shared some rather delicious biscuits with us prior to the match, making me feel much more at ease.
Fans were filling the ground and I recollect that many were dressed in the same long grey or charcoal black coats garbed with blue and white scarves and either flat caps or the home-knitted blue and white bobble hat I was made to wear. There was a steady build up of haze as the Park Drive, Woodbine and Capstan Full Strength smoke began to accumulate and add to the already stuffy atmosphere.
Equally noticeable was that many of the supporters knew each other, having stood in the same area for years supporting the Owls.
'Ah tha ahreight Bert?' one shouted to Granddad. 'How's t'owd lass?' he enquired. 'Dunno' he replied. 'Haven't seen her for a fottneet. She's on holiday in Whitby'.
'Lucky beggar!' someone shouted.
Granddad grabbed me by the shoulder and said 'Come with me. I've got someone you should meet'. We manoeuvred ourselves to the front of the stand, close to the pitch, just left of the goal. He bent down and, putting his head on my shoulder, he said 'Do you know who that is?', pointing to one of Sheffield Wednesday's players who was collecting a loose ball during the pre-match warm up. 'That's Don Megson'. He noticed my puzzled look and added 'He's a proper gentleman. He always says he's sorry before he breaks someone's leg'.
Noticing the amazed look on my face, he stood up straight, pushed his shoulders back and after taking off his flat cap he raised his heels, arched his back and attracted the attention of the great man. He didn't say anything to the player; he merely gestured by shifting his eyes, a contortion of the lips and the occasional side-to-side nod of the head.
I got the shock of my life when Megson noticed us, came over, rubbed his hand through my hair and gave me a wink that I would never forget. Granddad was equally happy too. 'Told you so' he said, looking round at all his friends, gleaming with pride. Don Megson had made Granddad's day just as memorable as mine.
It wasn't long after the game had started that Owls legend Johnny Fantham did what we all had learned to expect from him: he scored with a blistering net-bulging shot on goal. However, as the game progressed and with Wednesday firmly in control of the match, we were also treated to a rare hat trick from Peter Swan's partner in the centre of defence, Gerry Young. And when he scored the third of his goals in the last quarter of the match, the ground literally erupted and I was taken aback with a sprightly performance by Granddad that belied his 65 years of age. I've never seen anyone click his heels together so many times in one single leap.
At the end of the match the Italian supporters were just as noisy and voluble as they were before it had begun: all credit to them, they had confidence in their team beating Sheffield Wednesday in Italy despite their 4-0 loss. This didn't stop Granddad offering them a rendering of 'Arrivederci Roma' however.
'Come on lad', he said. 'If yer don't want spaghetti for breakfast, we'd better hurry up an' catch bus home'.
I would like to say that I didn't wash my hair ever again … and I didn't for a whole week. But I'll never forget that moment when Don Megson rubbed my hair and then winked at me. He proved himself to be the proper gentleman as Granddad had told me. Not only that, he became an icon of excellence for his club and he went on to prove to the rest of the world just how much a gentleman he really was by breaking the tradition of losing FA Cup finalists and leading Sheffield Wednesday on a lap of honour around Wembley Stadium in the 1966 final against Everton.
Unfortunately, my Granddad had passed away that same year, but I could still hear him say 'Told you so'.
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