Finals, Don Megson and an unusual lap of honour: The Sheffield Wednesday memories of Jim McCalliog
“We were quite embarrassed at first,” remembers Jim McCalliog. “We were just coming down from getting our medals and the manager told us to do it. It was most unusual.”
The date was May 14 1966, 10 weeks or so before English football was catapulted into World Cup immortality, but the venue, Wembley, was the same.
McCalliog, then a wiry and talented 19-year-old with a Glasgow accent stronger than scotch whiskey, was one of the Sheffield Wednesday players to have just lost the FA Cup final to Everton 3-2 having been 2-0 up on the hour.
Shoulders southwards, medals dangling forlornly from their necks, legendary Owls manager Alan Brown gathered his players round and instructed them to take a walk around the pitch. Lead by their talismanic captain Don Megson, FA Cup final losers Sheffield Wednesday would embark on a lap of honour.
The assembled crowd of 100,000 people had just been witness to what is still considered one of the great Wembley matches and from a feeling of initial confusion grew a sense of appreciation. Supporters of both clubs rose to applaud the Owls players.
“Usually you would just trudge off the field and lick your wounds,” McCalliog, now 74, told The Star. “But we set off, you didn’t think twice about what Alan Brown told you to do, and in the end we enjoyed it.
“You could see why he asked us to do it. Our fans deserved it. They'd put their money in their pockets all season and we gave them a good wave. They did respond great for us. But then it began to sink in that we'd lost how we had when we got back to the changing room.”
Those Wednesday fans had indeed earned it. The Owls had been drawn away in every round of the cup – from Reading to Newcastle, from Huddersfield to Blackburn and then to a famous sodden semi-final at Villa Park in which McCalliog scored the second in a 2-0 win over much-fancied Chelsea.
That it had been Chelsea they’d beaten in the semis was a romance in itself for the Scot.
Just months earlier he had become Britain’s most expensive teenage footballer thanks to a £37,500 move to Brown’s young and exciting Wednesday side. Keen to escape the obstacle of Blues legend Peter Osgood, interest from South Yorkshire reached McCalliog when he had played only seven league matches.
“I'd played in cup games and I'd played in a lot of friendlies in a very good squad I was in the Chelsea side at 17 and was seen as someone who was up and coming and knocking on the door. To realise my ambitions I had to move,” he remembered.
“Tommy Docherty didn't want me to leave Chelsea. I had to ask him for a transfer three times. Well, the first time he chased me out of the office!
“The second time he said he'd tell the directors but I had no chance and after that the money must have been going up. Tommy being a Scotsman careful about money, he thought it was about time to sell and I got the go-ahead to join Alan Brown at Wednesday.
“I went with the secretary from Chelsea to meet Alan to a hotel in London. I didn’t know him at the time, I just remember this big guy walks towards me, we had a lovely chat and he came back to my house to meet my parents and we went for a walk with my brothers and sisters. Tremendous man.”
The Scot had spent time in Don Revie’s youth set-up at Leeds United and so was no stranger to Yorkshire and its people.
He remembers walking into a young and exciting changing room at Hillsborough, threaded together by a handful of experienced and legendary Wednesday figures, and settling straight in.
“The changing room was excellent,” he chuckled warmly. “Good banter and an excellent captain in Don, probably the best captain I played under.
“He kept the lads going and it was always good fun. We had a few Sheffield lads, a good mix and a very young side, inexperienced and I think maybe that had something to do with the final. For an hour we were on top, 2-0 up and cruising, then all of a sudden we were back on our heels.
"We ended up taking part in what everyone has said is one of the best-ever FA Cup finals. Five goals! A lot of the time you're lucky if you get a single goal.
"We were inexperienced. Maybe we could have dropped in a bit more, got behind the ball and annoyed them that bit more.”
Having released his autobiography, which comes with a foreward by his hero Denis Law, McCalliog is currently on a lap of honour of his own, visiting pubs and clubs in the cities of his former clubs from Wolverhampton to Southampton and finally to Sheffield.
His tour arrives in the Steel City this week with dates at venues throughout the next few days.
He’ll be at Crystal Peaks shopping centre on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10.30 until 2. Other headline appearances include the Old Crown from 7pm-8.30pm on Monday, Hillsborough Golf Club from 6pm until 8pm on Tuesday and the New Barrack from 7pm until 8.30pm on Thursday.
Other appearances are scheduled and anyone interested are asked to check Jim McCalliog’s Facebook page.
Looking back on a wonderful career, McCalliog sighed and said softly: "It was a roller coaster, I'll tell you that. An honour.
“I enjoyed my time at all my football clubs and it was a wonderful football career, I'm very, very thankful. The biggest thing was that I managed to get some degree of success at all the clubs I played at. That's something to look at in my old age.”
As Wednesday legends go, Jim McCalliog is up there.