Vital SWFC forum member rickyclark always gets that shocked reply (and a screwed-up facial expression to match) when he says which team he supports. Every time, ever since he started supporting the Owls in 1993 at the tender age of 7. He tells us his story..
Like most youngsters I took to football pretty early and being from a small town stuck in between Scotland and Newcastle, there was little else to do other than play football or watch it on TV if it was raining.
My earliest memory of football was playing it. Before I could comprehend the supporting side of the game, my dad had me in a Newcastle United strip: not a real one though, one of the full strip packs you bought from the local market, where you stitched the badge on yourself. I then believed I supported Everton, Spurs closely followed (both getting the stitch-on badge kits) until I was bought my first real football shirt. Again it was Newcastle, in my Dad's final bid to get me converted, but I happily wore it this time, but only because the rest of the kids at my school wore the same one.
Everyone was a Newcastle fan. It was custom to follow the pattern, except from the odd glory-hunting Manchester United fan or the poor misunderstood Sunderland fans, but they were few and far between. In summer 1993 the mould was to be broken in the most absurd fashion: it was my Dad again who accidentally led me to find my real team.
Unbeknown to me, the football world was at fever pitch as it was FA Cup Final day: a replay of the final in fact, which had finished 1-1 five days earlier, the last ever FA Cup Final to go to a replay. Arsenal were about to take on Sheffield Wednesday again, the two teams having played each other in the Coca Cola Cup final a month or so beforehand, a match I remember watching (I wanted Arsenal to win!).
I picked up a copy of my first ever football magazine, and when I got it home, laid out the giant poster which showed a full team poster of finalists Arsenal and, on the back, Wednesday. Enter dad, who pointed out 'One of the greatest players I've ever seen and one to keep your eye on in the final..' - the Geordie-born and former Newcastle player: Mr. Christopher Roland Waddle!
I watched the game intently that day and after 68 minutes Chrissy Waddle smashed in a volley deflected off Lee Dixon; I was converted! 119 minutes into the game and under a minute left before penalties, Andy Linighan headed the winner and I cried for what seemed like hours: this was emotion like I'd never felt before, this is where life began.
From that point on it was total obsession. Everything had to be Sheffield Wednesday: duvet covers, wallpaper (still intact, much to the dislike of my girlfriend!), curtains, lamp shades, every replica kit. The lot.
I wrote to Waddle and got him to send me his autograph, I also used to write to David Pleat: I remember one letter which read '...congratulations on the signing of Orlando Trustfull.' (!) I also added my preferred team selections, which of course he never replied to.
My passion used to sometimes become a bit much for those around me though: one day I checked the league tables and noticed we'd slipped a place. Not realizing we were to play that evening, I took it as defeat and went about tearing down all the memorabilia from my walls, throwing the framed posters and scarves under by bed. Through streams of tears I exclaimed 'That was it, its over'.. this was quite a regular occurrence in the early days. Anyway, the boys fought out a hard earned draw that night, away at Arsenal, so I forgave them.
Another example of my pain was one of Danny Wilson's last matches in charge, which was an 8-0 total devastation defeat at the hands of Newcastle (with five from Shearer): imagine me trying to live that one down at school! Later on I stopped crying, not because I grew out of it, but because I became used to defeat: supporting England as well as Wednesday during the wilderness years, I simply didn't have enough tears!
Now aged 21 I still get the same feelings as I did on that day in 1993: the passion and the heartache is still very much intact. However these days, as the doldrums seem to be firmly behind us, it's more likely that the tears rolling down my cheeks are ones of glory and happiness. Imagine that!