A Canadian Owls Tale
Think it's bad enough living the other side of Sheffield to Hillsborough? Well just think how bad it is for Josh Arthurs who grew up supporting Wednesday over in Canada!
Here is the tale of how Josh grew to love everything blue and white despite being born and raised in Toronto...
Reading these Wednesday stories has inspired me to give my own testimony. However, I think you'll find that my story is a bit unusual for a Wednesdayite.
To begin with, I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada; for the last fifteen years I've been living in the USA. I've only been to Hillsborough once and have only seen Wednesday play on a handful of occasions. So how did a nice Canadian boy come to bleed blue and white? And why, of all the clubs out there, did I choose Wednesday - a choice that has caused anguish more than happiness?
To put it simply, Wednesday is an important part of my identity and my family history.
My mum is from Sheffield, and only emigrated after marrying my Canadian father. As a child, my favourite person in the entire world was my grandfather Harold, in many ways the archetypical Yorkshireman: strong, dignified, quiet but with a wry sense of humor and a warm heart.
Whereas my mother spoke with a BBC-ish accent, Grandpa sounded like he came from another time and place, still using 'thee' and 'aye' and calling me 'our Josh.' To this day, hearing a Yorkshire accent gives me shivers and conjures up memories of his stories of ghosts out on the Moor, the smell of pipe tobacco and the taste of badly boiled vegetables.
And then there was Wednesday.
It was like a private bond between the two of us, something that no-one else could really understand. I think that, if nothing else, my grandfather loved the eccentric name and the often tragic fate of the team. He used to sign off all his letters with 'Sheffield Wednesday 10-Canadian Wrong Side of the Roaders 0,' and would send me magazine articles and newspaper clippings, shirts and mugs.
As a small child, I loved the inside joke but didn't quite understand. Then, at the age of nine, I moved to London for a year. Boys my age were just starting to become football-mad, and everyone in the playground had to declare their allegiance to a club.
Since I lived near Stamford Bridge, Chelsea was a common choice; Everton and Liverpool had recently had successful seasons and were also popular. For me, though, only one side would do - Wednesday.
As luck would have it, we had just been promoted to the First Division, and I've always thought that this period - around 1984-5 - laid the foundations for our success in the early 1990s.
Under Howard Wilkinson - who I always felt looked a bit like Grandpa - the team included the likes of Lee Chapman, Imre Varadi and Martin Hodge. I begged for a full Wednesday kit (both home and away - remember that awful grey and purple one?), and was most likely the only kid in the park wearing one (while speaking with a North American accent). When we'd visit my grandfather, he'd dress up in a referee's kit and have me play against my brother (who somehow had become an Arsenal fan). Of course, the Wednesday had to win.
I moved back to Canada a few years later, and my grandfather died not long after that. Still, from that point on I had caught the Wednesday bug for good.
I've followed all our successes and failures over the years, first in the newspaper and now online. In the early 1990s my family visited Sheffield and called ahead to Hillsborough to reserve some tickets.
Having heard our story - a Canadian family of Wednesdayites? - the club arranged to give us press box tickets for free, as well as a dinner at the club restaurant and a tour of the dressing room, where I got to meet Chris Waddle, Chris Woods and several others from that great side. The match we saw was poor - 1-1 with Wimbledon, with us giving up a late equalizer - but all in all it was one of the greatest days of my life.
In more recent years, I've had a couple of opportunities to see the Owls in action - playing away in London and on last year's tour of the US. Every so often there's a Sky Sports match broadcast via satellite - including, of course, that wonderful day in Cardiff. But my main form of contact is the internet.
At my house, everyone knows that Saturday morning is Wednesday time, and the whole family listens to the streaming audio from Radio Sheffield. I have a two year-old son, who has already learnt to yell 'Wednesday!' and 'Up the Owls!' with a clenched fist in the air. He says that he likes 'the blue team.' I am determined to make him a believer!
So - for me being a Wednesdayite is about being close to my roots, paying tribute to my grandfather and having an unequivocal, unquestioning love for a cause.
I've suffered so much over the last few years - and my wife can attest to what an Owls loss does to our weekend - but it really seems that the atmosphere is positive and that we're on the up. I hope that in a few years I can make the trip across the pond with my son and show him an important part of his heritage - Sheffield Wednesday, back where they belong in the Premiership.