Former Wednesday player Steve Kiddy has made a mark on Hillsborough and it has left its mark on him.
In a 28-year association with the Owls he has kicked a ball for them, looked after the pitch on which the stars performed, seen two disasters and worked under 15 different managers and seven chairmen.
It all comes to end when he quits as head groundsman at the end of next month, taking with him indelible memories, including the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster and the 2007 flood which left the pitch under 16 feet of water.
“Seeing a harrowing event where 90-odd people died, and the natural disaster of the flood, shouldn’t really happen when you just go in to a do a job of work,” he said.
“I think what happened on that fateful day in 1989 totally changed the game, made it better for spectators with the improvements that were made to grounds, and commercially it went on on to a new level.”
Steve, a lifelong Wednesday fan, was one of the groundstaff who worked wonders to renew the pitch after it was flooded with contaminated water only seven weeks before the start of a season
“There were dead fish and rats on the pitch. Everything the water touched had to be cleaned or removed. We got there in the end and it was ready for the first game.”
Steve, 43 next Monday, was a centre half from Wincobank who was on the Owls’ books as a schoolboy and an apprentice but was hindered by injuries: “If wasn’t going to be a full pro player, joining the groundstaff was the next best thing. when it was my club.” He served under the then headgroundsman Dave Barber and was promoted after Dave left.
“I’ll never forget the 1991 season,” says Steve, “We got promoted under Ron Atkinson and won the League Cup; the reserves won their league; the youth team got to the FA Youth Cup final, and Dave and our team got Groundsman of the Year.
“I’d have to pick Ron as the best manager during my time. He changed the ethos of the club, lifted the whole place.”
Steve is leaving to join Premier Pitches, one of the country’s leading pitch-renovation companies, but intends to continue watching the Owls when possible.
“I just hope the club move forward and get to where they should be, in the Premier League,” he added.
“It’s such a shame where we are at the moment, but we’re certainly better off than three years ago when we nearly didn’t have a club. We should be grateful to the chairman for coming in and keeping us in business.
“We’ve had an unlucky start. If we get a win on the board, that’s what we need to kick-start our season.”