Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal: Why this match is so important to Owls fans

F.A. Cup Final 15th May 93: Arsenal's goalkeeper David Seaman is left helpless as David Hirst's equaliser crashes past him
F.A. Cup Final 15th May 93: Arsenal's goalkeeper David Seaman is left helpless as David Hirst's equaliser crashes past him
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Tonight's clash with Arsenal is more than just a cup tie for Sheffield Wednesday.

It is a reminder of an all-too distant past and a vision of what is hoped will be a not too distant future.

For the first time in the 15 years since relegation from the top flight, Wednesday will welcome one of English football's big boys to Hillsborough and supporters will turn up in droves.

But they won't be there for a hopeful glimpse of Sanchez, Walcott or Ozil.

A colleague put it best when describing what tonight means for Wednesdayites.

"People aren't turning up to this and bringing their kids to see Arsenal," he said. "People want to be at this game because this is what it used to be like all the time at Hillsborough. And they want to show their kids that."

David Hirst celebrates with team mates after scoring against Arsenal

David Hirst celebrates with team mates after scoring against Arsenal

Three generations of that colleague's family will be sat together at the game tonight.

The vast majority of supporters born after 1992 will have no memory of the biggest teams in the country coming to town, seeing Hillsborough close to full on a regular basis, or a time when Wednesday were an equal of the likes of Arsenal.

When Arsene Wenger's side arrive tonight, a window to that past will be opened.

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Dejected Owls players after the FA Cup final replay defeat

Dejected Owls players after the FA Cup final replay defeat

As supporters walk up gangways, catch sight of the pitch under the lights and feel the buzz from busy stands, they will be transported back 20 years.

It may be a romantic notion, but the drudge and slog of the majority of the last 15 years will be forgotten for the evening.

And with that, the dream of a top flight return will only grow stronger.

Positivity that dream will become reality has never been higher since relegation in 2000. Wednesday are flying right now, unbeaten in eight, playing some superb football at times but still clearly having improvement left in them.

Lee Briscoe fires in a stunning goal against Arsenal at Hillsborough

Lee Briscoe fires in a stunning goal against Arsenal at Hillsborough

Being competitive against one of the country's best will stoke the fire. And after the superb second half showing down the road in Rotherham on Friday night, there is a genuine feeling the Owls can indeed be provide a test for a phenomenally gifted side.

What must also not be forgotten about tonight is the fact that Arsenal hold a significant place in Wednesday history.

From 1993 onwards there could be no denying that a rivalry existed between the two clubs, even if it was a tad more one-sided than mutual dislike.

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Wednesdayites long held the belief Arsenal were 'owed one' after winning both cup finals at the Owls expense in 1993. The hurt of seeing the Gunners climb the steps and lift both the FA Cup and Coca Cola Cup is still felt today.

At least one of the two trophies ought to have found its way back to Hillsborough given the manner of the Wembley performances from the heroes in blue and white.

So meetings since then always had a bit of added spice.

And there were few moments in the late 90s as high as when Lee Briscoe smashed in from the corner of the box to seal victory in the famous game when Paulo Di Canio pushed referee Paul Alcock.

Who can forget also that only managing a 3-3 draw at Highbury condemned Wednesday to the drop in 2000?

How sweet then would it be to deny Arsenal a chance of lifting a cup they are clearly eager to win? Wednesdayites can dream.

The trips to Manchester City last season and Newcastle United earlier in this campaign offered a humbling insight into how far the top flight of English football has moved on since Wednesday last departed. In terms of infrastructure, the club has miles and miles of catching up to do.

But tonight is about dreaming again, about a visit of a footballing giant and what that means to the past and potential future of Sheffield Wednesday.

Whatever happens on the pitch tonight, the dream will only grow stronger. And it won't be just Carlos doing the dreaming.

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