A spirit that would make Don Megson proud - Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday column

There can be no more fitting or timely a tribute to Don Megson than that some of the qualities he embodied are showing in this current Sheffield Wednesday team.
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Some, not all, because Megson was a top player in a top flight team with the Owls in the 1960s.

But the values he typified are the exact reason Darren Moore’s Wednesday are in revival mode as they chase promotion from the third tier, even apparent when they finally lost for the first time in 24 league games in a storming derby at Barnsley on Tuesday.

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The most common criticism of S6 teams during their seemingly endless 23 year exile from the Premier League has been a lack of leaders on the field, a shortage of characters.

Which certainly never applied in Megson’s decade as a first-teamer with Don himself out in front as a powerful, hard-driving left back and captain.

It was expected then that players had tough temperaments and, above all, could handle the demands of performing for a big club.

That has certainly not always been the case at Hillsborough over the last two decades which have seen many a player - maybe successful elsewhere - wilt from the expectation of sizeable crowds.

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Well, Moore’s largely successful recruitment, and his galvanising of the dressing room, has put a stop to all that.

Sheffield Wednesday were beaten for the first time in five and a half months on Tuesday night. (Tim Goode/PA Wire)Sheffield Wednesday were beaten for the first time in five and a half months on Tuesday night. (Tim Goode/PA Wire)
Sheffield Wednesday were beaten for the first time in five and a half months on Tuesday night. (Tim Goode/PA Wire)

Barry Bannan is a clearly defined skipper, making his on-field demands pretty clear besides leading by example, but the squad is packed with hardened professionals.

And they look out for each other, just as Megson’s Wednesday did, finishing in the top ten of the old First Division six times across his decade as a senior up to 1970.

I’ve often pointed to the significance of Wednesday having 20-odds players who have operated higher, but that surfeit of experience isn’t everything.

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They have to have points to prove, things to achieve, rather than taking nice contracts to coast on the way down.

I don’t need to name them - it would appear nearly all have that collective bit between their teeth.

Megson, who died last week at the age of 86, would approve and so would his son, Gary, who, as manager, built the team that Dave Jones took to promotion in 2012.

Megson junior was also a forceful figure as a flame haired midfielder, albeit fierier in nature than his dad, who was relatively mild-mannered and reserved off the field, a gentleman to boot.

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But on the field he was a powerful figure, a granite-like defender who could attack with venom in the first era of overlapping full-backs.

Gary, who wants his father’s funeral to be more a celebration than a wake, told me of Don’s delight after he had a cine film of the 1966 FA Cup final - in which he was the first losing skipper to lead a lap of honour - converted to DVD.

“He would show it to people and keep saying ‘wait a moment, wait a moment.’ He wasn’t waiting for the goals or anything, just the moment when he hammered Everton winger John Morrissey with a tackle that put him on the Wembley dog track.

“‘That’s it,’ he’d say. “No-one else has done that there!’l

No nonsense, no fuss and a damn good footballer with great team values. Lovely to see Wednesday getting back to that.

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It showed in their fightback from 2-0 down at Oakwell, after some uncharacteristically sloppy early defending.

The ending to dip out 4-2 to a brilliantly resurgent Barnsley was a lottery. But the signs are this Wednesday aren’t going to leave much else to chance.