Shades of 79 as Megson sets his sights on revival

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UNITEDITES are probably sick to death of hearing about the Boxing Day massacre and are quite right whenever they point out that the Blades have had their own triumphs against the old enemy.

But comparisons between the 1979 game and this Sunday’s are inevitable in the minds of many Wednesday fans.

On the other hand, there will be players on both sides who have never heard the story before.

The Owls went into that Christmas clash in sixth place in the old Third Division. The Blades were top and favourites to win at Hillsborough.

But Wednesday triumphed 4-0 and went on to earn promotion, finishing third.

United faded and ended in 12th place.

What you may not know is that Wednesday’s record in the seven league games before the 79 derby was exactly the same as it is now: two wins, two draws and three defeats.

I don’t recall any talk about the Owls parting company with Jack Charlton back then; admittedly the team had not lost their previous three league matches, and football is different now.

The sacking of Lee Clark by Huddersfield seems to have nurtured a climate in which hardly anything would surprise anybody.

In 1979, the Owls lost only three of their remaining games after beating the Blades and went up behind Grimsby (champions) and Blackburn (runners-up).

Third place is not good enough for automatic promotion these days, of course.

Gary Megson and Wednesday could do with Sunday being a turning point in their season as they attempt to revive their challlenge for a top-two spot.

If they lose, the gap between them and United may seem too wide to bridge. It would be eight points, and the Blades have two games in hand, the first of them against Scunthorpe at home on Wednesday (they have to be fancied to win that), the second away to Colchester on Tuesday March 13.

But they say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

I’d be more worried if the Owls had lost their spirit and been markedly outplayed.

They should have won at Exeter but were beaten by two exceptional free-kicks; they should have beaten Stevenage but their failure to score that night was put in a different perspective on Sunday when Spurs were unable to get a goal against the Boro in the FA Cup.

Again, the Owls should have won at Chesterfield after a one-sided first half.

It can be said, and has been said, that the team have now lost four games in a row. Yes, if you lump in an FA Cup tie against a Championship outfit, when both sides fielded basically reserve sides, but Blackpool have by far the bigger and more costly squad.

It is perfectly reasonable for Megson and the players to think they haven’t had much of a break recently.

But it’s no use them feeling sorry for themselves, and I’m sure they are not in that frame of mind.

They have not been found wanting for character and effort this season and I think that will continue on Sunday.