Chris Waddle cuddles and Big Jack Charlton on the wall - Why Sheffield Wednesday are embracing the pressures of the past
October 1988. Howard Wilkinson dried his eyes, packed his bags and left Hillsborough for the final time as Sheffield Wednesday manager.
The lifelong Wednesdayite got in his car and set sail directly up the M1 to start work at another club, Leeds United. On his first day, walking through the corridors of Elland Road, he looked up and around at the walls, adorned with images of Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer and most notably one of his predecessors, Don Revie.
Within a couple of days, he had torn them all down.
His task, he said, was to return his new club to the First Division, a task he famously achieved and then some. He had no interest in ‘looking back’ and Leeds, he believed, were spooked by the ghosts of Elland Road past.
“I decided that it needed to stop clinging to that, stop looking back and start looking forward,” he later said.
“Clubs with a past, it can be a plus or a negative and if it’s a negative, you have to make some brave decisions early on, almost as a form of shock treatment.”
Which brings us onto his old club; the club closest to his heart. At Sheffield Wednesday, the walls are not so much a reminder of the past as a flashing neon advertisement. Sheffield Wednesday are proud of its place at the centre of English football history. And so it should be.
Murals of Jack Charlton and Johnny Fantham look down on the South Stand concourses. On the way to offices, executive boxes and so on, there are photos of Big Ron’s lot, of Waddle at Wembley, of Di Canio and Carbone.
Is this marking of the past a healthy pastime? Shudder the thought Wednesday blindly copycat anything done at Leeds, but is it something to be embraced or shelved in a Wilkinson-esque show of freshness?
Darren Moore’s point of view is clear. As the media waited to speak to him after Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Plymouth, he wandered off to spend a little time with Chris Waddle, there to cover the match for ITV. The pair spoke for five minutes or so before the Owls boss returned with his apologies.
“I was us to embrace it, absolutely,” he said on whether the club’s former success is an inspiration or a millstone around the neck.
“As a manager that is coming in here now, I wanted to make sure I had a chat with Chris because those players have set a precedent at this football club and have set a standard for all the players that follow them. Let’s embrace that.
“It reminds you of the good times that have been at this football club and what the fans have witnessed here.
“I like it. That’s why we keep all the photos up, the memories and everything about it.
“I love coming in here, I like having meetings in the club and looking up and seeing them. It’s a timely reminder in terms of keeping the focus and energy to bring that success back to the football club.”
So there we have it. Feel no guilt in hankering for the old times; revel in them, in fact. It’s nearly Christmas and there are some half-decent books out, you know..