SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Big fish have a new pond

Owls v Wycombe.....Chairman Milan Mandaric congratulated by fans
Owls v Wycombe.....Chairman Milan Mandaric congratulated by fans
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IT’S easy when looking back at days like Saturday to lapse into hyperbole about the support Sheffield Wednesday received at Hillsborough.

However, to get 38,000 home fans to any match, in any stadium, in any country is something that few clubs can boast. So we musn’t be shy about lavishing praise on Wednesdayites.

Owls v Wycombe.....Promotion the scene at Hillsborough at the Final Whistle

Owls v Wycombe.....Promotion the scene at Hillsborough at the Final Whistle

But it was more than just the sheer weight of numbers.

There was a sense of joy, of optimism, of celebration and even of innocence throughout the day as Owls fans decked out in blue and white made their way down Herries Road or through Hillsborough Park.

Not everyone could get a ticket of course, as the frantic ebay bidding during the week demonstrated.

For example, what looked like a father and son were fishing on the river bank just below the executive car-park near the South Stand’s main entrance.

Owls v Wycombe.....Owls fans

Owls v Wycombe.....Owls fans

The lad, who could have been only about five or six, had a Wednesday scarf on and was being well looked after by his dad who made sure his little chair was pushed firmly into the banking to prevent his boy slipping in to the fast-flowing river.

It was a strangely touching scene in amongst the noise and chaos before the big match.

But it was very much in keeping with the overall mood of the day.

People had come from far and wide to see Wednesday pick up the win which would return them to the Championship.

Owls v Wycombe.....Dressing Room celebrations

Owls v Wycombe.....Dressing Room celebrations

The atmosphere around and inside the ground was bouncing and, maybe because of a lack of a meaningful away support, extremely good-natured.

There never seems to be the overt intimidation or nastiness in big crowds at Hillsborough that you may get elsewhere.

Yes they’re noisy and they get behind their team passionately, but on Saturday it was in a way that would make you feel good about taking your youngsters to watch.

One fan, Kevin Curry, a lawyer who now lives in Manchester, said it had been a long time since Wednesdayites could enjoy such an occasion at home.

Owls v Wycombe.....Ryan Lowe

Owls v Wycombe.....Ryan Lowe

“It’s hard to describe (the atmosphere) - the place was rocking. I thought you could feel the optimism but mostly there was just a sense of real joy.

“It’s probably been 15 years since people could really indulge and enjoy being at Hillsborough. It was a special day.”

For something that everyone had come to watch, the match was almost an afterthought to the occasion itself. Michail Antonio and Nile Ranger’s goals gave the fans what they wanted. Three points and promotion.

The first goal was celebrated with a deafening roar. An explosion of pent-up angst signalling that maybe everything was going to be all right - backed up moments later by news of Exeter taking the lead over United.

Has an Exeter goal ever been celebrated as wildly? Even Grecian fans may have to doff their caps.

The second goal was different. If it’s possible to cheer and breathe out a huge sigh of relief at the same time then almost the entire crowd succeeded in that particular challenge.

Owls v Wycombe.....A jubilant Owls Manager Dave Jones

Owls v Wycombe.....A jubilant Owls Manager Dave Jones

Everyone bounced. Staff in the South Stand kitchens wondered whether the roof was going to cave in.

Grandads with gout stood for the entire 90 minutes in the Leppings Lane lower tier because they’ve been Wednesdayites all their lives and, well, you know, they worry it could be their last chance to experience a day like this.

Let’s be honest, can anyone else remember Wednesday needing to win at home on the last day of the season to be promoted and in the process disappoint their rivals from across the city? Thought not.

There will be a few people who don’t remember Saturday either.

They’ll probably be the amoebas who ran on to the pitch during the lap of honour by the players.

The first pitch invasion, while not condonable, was understandable. Seeing Miguel Llera, Danny Batth and Gary Madine being crowd-surfed to the tunnel area is an experience that many - not least them - won’t forget in a hurry.

But when it came to the players having their moment of glory it was a shame that a few showed a lack of intelligence by trying to join in. The lap of honour being cut short was a minor wrinkle on an otherwise excellent day in Sheffield 6.

It was a perfect team performance between the players, the club and the fans.

An hour later, still dressed in his full kit including boots, Jose Semedo, Wednesday’s inspirational captain, remarked that even though the players knew it was going to be a sell-out the reality was even better than their wildest imaginations.

And former Owls defender Mark Smith, who now runs a football coaching academy, thought it was a remarkable occasion - and he played in the Boxing Day massacre, don’t you know.

Suddenly it was all over. The crowd eventually dispersed to celebrate with family and friends.

The players did whatever players do when they’ve achieved something special in what is such a precarious profession. And, by the way, they earned every moment of how ever they chose to party.

It was nearly 7pm, there wasn’t much else to do so this particular writer wandered back to his car thinking about Milan Mandaric’s words in the chairman’s impromptu press conference.

The Premier League was talked about seriously for the first time in years.

Mandaric is a clever man but even he couldn’t have planned for a day like this when he bought the club.

Selling out pretty much the entire ground with your own fans. Seriously?

He must feel like a multi-millionaire with a winning lottery ticket.

And as the rain came down I thought this could be a very interesting summer.

Owls v Wycombe.....Miguel Llera

Owls v Wycombe.....Miguel Llera

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship

Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers'Wednesday fans and players celebrate their promotion to the Championship