Owls of despair for club

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As Sheffield Wednesday fans head to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester tonight to see the Owls play in the Capitol One Cup, talk is bound to turn to April 22, 1970.

That was when an epic match against Manchester City at Hillsborough consigned the Owls to 14 years in the second division.

Fans on the online forum Owls Talk who reminisced about it remembered that the rain threw down. Several who were youngsters in 1970 said they were swept off their feet because of the huge crowd that night.

As the fans remember, City did their utmost to help the Owls stay up. A penalty was hit so softly that keeper Peter Grummitt was never going to miss it.

The forum fans say a tough tackle by Colin Prophett on Mike Summerbee that kept him out of the Cup Winners’ Cup final changed the City players’ attitude.

Substitute Ian Bowyer came on, ambitious and eager to impress, and his last-minute header put the final nails in the coffin.

The much-missed Tony Pritchett, who was The Star Wednesday reporter, wrote: “The axe which had been poised over the necks of Sheffield Wednesday since the sunshine of last August fell on a night of bitter anti-climax at Hillsborough last night.

“Manchester City, surely the gentlest and most reluctant executioners of all time, beat the Owls 2-1 to condemn them to a return to Second Division football… and the tragedy of it all was that a massive, rain-soaked crowd of 45,258 was there to see it.”

He said Wednesday were “clueless, uninspired and short of that enormous do-or-die effort all of us expected”.

Pritch said that City went as close as they dared to indicate that they weren’t interested in winning but at the end they couldn’t help it. That City penalty was the worst he had ever seen.

The back page of The Star, reproduced here, had a picture of dejected general manager Eric Taylor, saying it was the saddest night of his 40 years at Hillsborough.

Manager Danny Williams said of the fans: “They were wonderful. They didn’t fail us last night, we failed them.”

Full-back Wilf Smith tried to play with a pulled hamstring but came off after 30 minutes and the team struggled after that.

The teams last met in the FA Cup seven years ago when they lost 2-1 in a replay. Their worst defeat was 6-2 almost exactly 13 years ago and Wednesday last beat City in the 1993-4 season.

So surely tonight is the night to lay some of those ghosts to rest? Best of luck!