FA Cup: Owls fans to root for ex-players as Stoke goes for glory

Cup finalist: Stoke City's Glenn Whelan helped the Owls to promotion.
Cup finalist: Stoke City's Glenn Whelan helped the Owls to promotion.
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WEDNESDAY fans have cause to root for Stoke in the FA Cup final today and not just because they will be underdogs.

Potters midfield man Glenn Whelan and striker Kenwyne Jones were popular Owls players who played key roles in a memorable season.

Cup finalist: Stoke City's Kenwyne Jones helped the Owls to promotion.

Cup finalist: Stoke City's Kenwyne Jones helped the Owls to promotion.

Whelan’s Wembley date will also take his mind back to another final, the last game of 2004-05 campaign.

The ex-Manchester City midfielder scored as Wednesday seized promotion with a 4-2 triumph against Hartlepool in the League One play-off decider at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

Jones had left Hillsborough by then - but his loan stay with them in mid-season had proved to be a turning point in his career.

The centre forward had never scored a League goal when Paul Sturrock borrowed him from Southampton.

But, starting with a derby at Doncaster, he notched seven in seven league games - the first Owls player to achieve that since Redfern Froggatt did it almost 46 years earlier.

Saints refused to extend the loan or sell him - until they raked in £6 million from Sunderland for him four years ago.

Wednesday let Whelan go to Stoke for £500,000 in January, 2008, towards the end of his contract, and he helped the Potters to clinch promotion to the Premier League.

Owls fans can only wonder what impact players of the duo’s calibre would have on the current Wednesday side if Gary Megson could magically transport them into Hillsborough.

Strikers and midfield player will be on the manager’s list of nine targets.

Also on Stoke’s books, but not having made much of a mark there, is Tom Soares, the midfield player who had an undistinguished loan spell with the Owls in the 2009-10 season.

Wednesday’s Player of the Year and top scorer Neil Mellor may not share any pro-Stoke feeling: He grew up in Manchester as a City fan.

Nicky Weaver has a City playing background, and the keeper enjoyed Wembley glory by saving two penalties in the League One play-final shoot-out against Gillingham in 1999. A City win today plus a Stoke goal could be the perfect compromise for the Wednesday award-winner.

Eastlands keeper Joe Hart will surpass Weaver’s club record of 26 clean sheets in a season, set in 1999, if he does not concede a goal. But he would still have another two chances, as City have Premier League matches against Stoke on Tuesday and Bolton on May 22.