IT MIGHT have been a rainy evening in Sheffield city centre, but the party atmosphere had all the feel of a carnival in downtown Rio.
Drums were banged, flags waved, the band played on - as thousands of Sheffield Wednesday fans chanted at the tops of their voices to celebrate the team’s promotion to the Championship.
Still riding high on last weekend’s victory over Wycombe Wanderers, 2,000-plus Owls fans turned out to salute their heroes outside the Town Hall last night.
The downpour did little to dampen the spirits of supporters, who transformed the city centre into a sea of blue and white in anticipation of the players’ arrival.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, deafening chants of ‘Wednesday’s going up’ and ‘The City is Ours’ rang through the surrounding streets.
For Wednesdayites young and old, it was a day which will forever be etched in the club’s history books.
Mal Dixon, aged 58, who went to her first Sheffield Wednesday game at the tender age of eight, brought three generations of family with her to the reception.
Her daughter Rachael, 33, son Daniel, 28, and grandchildren Lexi and Brooklyn gathered at the Town Hall.
Mal, of Handsworth, said: “I’ve been a Wednesday fan for 50 years. My kids had no choice! I was there on Saturday and it was just magical.
“I’m proud of them and I wanted to congratulate them. We’ve got a chance for promotion again, if not next season then the one after.”
For 13-year-old Bailey Hempsey and his brother Keelan, 11, the civic reception gave young fans the chance to show their gratitude to Jose Semedo and Gary Madine.
Youngster Bailey had his flag at the ready for when the players and club chairman Milan Mandaric came out on to the balcony to greet the crowds.
Bailey said: “We came straight from school to the Town Hall. I was excited for it all day. I was watching the game at home on Saturday and when we won I was shouting and jumping up and down. I feel really proud of them.”
The boys’ mum, Claire Roberts, of Parson Cross, Sheffield, said: “It was decided before they were born the boys would be Wednesdayites. We all are in our family.”
The spirit of the occasion encapsulated the passion of the city’s dedicated Owls followers, thousands of whom invaded the pitch at Hillsborough.
Fans who witnessed last Saturday’s sell-out promotion-winning game were eager to congratulate the squad and directors once again.
Lauren Saywell, 18, of Hillsborough, said: “I was brought up with Sheffield Wednesday. The atmosphere at the match was amazing and it’s the same again here. The rain doesn’t matter.”
Chris Broadhead, 27, and his seven-year-old son Owen travelled from Rotherham to the reception.
Chris said: “I’ve been a fan for 24 years and Owen went to his first game when he was one.
“It’s always good to be a Wednesday fan, even when we’re not doing as well. Days like this make everything worthwhile.
“It has been one big party for us fans since Saturday and this is a brilliant way to end it.”
Support for the club even stretched to the animal world - as Chris Redford, 26, of Treeton, dressed his eight-month-old pug puppy Alfie in a blue and white football shirt for the reception.
He said: “We put him in a kids’ shirt and brought him down in the car with us! It is brilliant for the club to finally be celebrating again. There’s a sense of optimism about the future. It would be a dream come true to see us in the Premier League.”
A few optimistic Owls spoke of the prospect of another promotion under Dave Jones next season, but for many the reception was all about toasting their latest success.
Kieran Porter, 20, of Chapeltown said: “I was there on Saturday. I’ve been a season ticket holder since I was 10 years old.
“This is better than when we were promoted through the play-offs. I think promotion is possible, but we have to strengthen first. Right now it is just about celebrating what we’ve achieved this season.”