Sheffield Wednesday's stadium consigned to history as neutral grounds lost in FA money machine

Stainless steel, cutlery, two football teams, seven hills and two million trees...

Monday, 19th March 2018, 10:37 am
Updated Monday, 19th March 2018, 10:40 am
Hillsborough under the lights

That’s roughly what the average outsider knows about Sheffield - throw in a few entertainers, boxers and athletes for good measure and you’re about there.

They also used to know it as an FA Cup semi-final venue along with other old-style ‘neutral grounds’ such as Arsenal’s former ground Highbury, now, like its northern cousin Maine Road, covered in bricks and concrete.

But neutral grounds, like - Sheffield’s glorious but fast-disappearing trees - ain’t what they used to be.

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The tragedy where 96 Liverpool fans died at the 1989 semi-final was the beginning of the end of Hillsborough’s ‘elite’ stadium status.

In recent years it has fallen out of favour as the media, catering and medical standards required of top grounds have risen dramatically.

The stadium that hosted West Germany and Argentina during the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96 group games featuring Denmark, Portugal and Croatia is now rarely mentioned in the same breath as those of which it was once the equal.

Which is a shame because Spurs are about to play an FA Cup semi-final on their own ground.

The £800m national stadium, temporary home of Tottenham Hotspur, is to be the venue for their last four clash with Manchester United.

Can that be right?

Unless there’s a huge shift in attitude by the FA - not known for its nimble responses - it will have to be.

Of course there are other grounds more than capable of hosting such a tie and far more suitable.

But Spurs are paying rent on the national stadium while their new ground is being built and Wembley needs the dosh from the FA Cup semi-finals to help cover its mortgage payments.

What could possibly be wrong with such an arrangement?

Apart from an abandonment of fair play, tradition, history and the long-term fate of grounds like Hillsborough, nothing at all.

*There’s a certain lady in Sussex who will forever have a soft spot for Sheffield Wednesday, and especially for striker Atdhe Nuhiu.

Nuhi’s brace on Saturday at Elland Road included an injury-time winner that clinched £1million for 59-year-old Jacqueline Packham on Sky’s Super Six competition.

Jacquie got all six score predictions correct thanks to Wednesday’s late win.

Surely there’s a drink in it for Atdhe and Jacquie’s new favourite team?