'Billy Sharp told me I'd become a Sheffield United legend' - Mark Duffy remembers the day he broke Wednesday hearts at Hillsborough
It was the day that made him a hero forever more at Sheffield United.
And, in a new book chronicling the first two years of Chris Wilder's Blades reign, Mark Duffy recalls his crucial goal in the Steel City derby against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
The Liverpudlian came on as a substitute with United leading 2-1, after being two ahead, and had only been on the pitch for a matter of moments when Lucas Joao levelled for the Owls.
Hillsborough was bouncing but Duffy, just over a minute and a half later, scored a stunning effort to drag United back into the lead. They eventually won 4-2.
In this exclusive extract from my new book, 'He's one of our own' - the story of Chris Wilder's Sheffield United revolution, Duffy says: "I came off the pitch at Hillsborough and Billy Sharp told me that I would be a Blades legend forever, because of that goal. I didn’t what he was on about because Leon had scored twice, so thought he should surely have been the legend if anyone!
But I guess the timing of the goal is what made it so special. It just summed up what we’re like, and what the gaffer has made us like. We keep going until the final whistle and never stop believing in what we’re doing.
The derby was the biggest game I’d ever played in, by far. In the build up, the gaffer and Billy told us all about it but you don’t really believe it until it happens. Then as the week went on it got bigger and bigger and then, the gaffer told me I wasn’t playing. I was devastated, fuming, but knew I had to get behind the boys who were playing. I sandwiched myself between Ched and Leon when we got off the bus and they were getting absolute pelters. The atmosphere was a joke. The day just panned out so well.
We were wondering how it wasn’t 4-0 or 5-0 at half-time but gave them a lifeline they didn’t deserve and in the second half, they started to gain momentum. I got sent on, told to keep the pressure on them high up the pitch so they couldn’t get out. I hadn’t been on the pitch long and they scored. The whole ground was bouncing. But not for long.
I remember there being a few bad passes and then I got on the end of a Bash header, and played a one-two with Leon before sort of going into my zone. Normally in that situation I try and pass when I can but in that moment, time just seemed to slow down and I just manoeuvred my way in. Because of the tight angle I thought ‘right, just put your laces through it’ and I caught it so sweet.
The scenes were unbelievable. I still get sent videos and stuff now. After the game, I reckon I had 10,000 messages, tweets, emails... my phone went into absolute overdrive. People have made all sorts of that moment, pictures and mugs and steel plaques and badges. I’ve got all sorts of stuff. But I never tire of seeing the goal. Some players go a whole career without something so special happening.
It’s hard to explain what goes through your head at a moment like that. Apart from the birth of your kids it’s one of the best feelings possible and even then, it’s a different feeling; that ecstasy, out of nowhere. Your heartbeat goes to 200bpm in a matter of seconds. I remember looking up and seeing fans going berserk and flares going off... it just meant so much to everyone.
There’s a great video of the Wednesday fans bouncing and then the camera pans to the top of the away end just after the goal. I don’t know why they uploaded them all, to be honest! You’d think they’d have all been deleted.
But I’m glad they weren’t. My dad has them all on his iPad and watches them when he’s had a drink! He runs through it with me and asks what I’m thinking when I get the ball, but it’s just instinct really. I did what I did as a kid in Liverpool, when I was six or seven years old. It came from playing on the streets as a kid and it could have been anyone in goal or in the opposition. I’d have scored many goals like that in the youth clubs. Just not in front of 32,000 fans in a derby!
Leon scored twice that day but that’s brushed under the carpet because of that moment that stopped them bouncing. I’m now known as the Bounce Killer! It was an unbelievable moment. Wednesday had been in the Championship for all that time and we heard all sorts about playing in the Pub League, while they thought they’d be going for promotion again.
But football doesn’t work like that and no team has a God-given right to be anywhere, as they found out this season with a nice healthy gap between us and them in the table. But there’s a clean slate in the new season and we have to make sure we’re better and achieve more from now on.
We’ve all bought into the ethos and how much it means to have put Sheffield United back on the map. It seemed as though the club had fallen so far and Wednesday fans were basically laughing at United, but we’ve given the club back to the fans and put it back on a level playing field.
It’s not little old Sheffield United anymore... if anything, we’re a better team than them, as the table shows. They’ve got to wrestle the rights off us to be the No.1 club in the city because at the minute, they’re a long way behind us."