It was 24 years ago that Mark Bright wrote his name into Steel City derby folklore. The prolific striker claimed the winner after extra-time in the all-Sheffield FA Cup semi-final. His strike sent the blue-and-white half of Sheffield into ecstasy at the old Wembley.
“I played for a few clubs but it was the biggest derby I played in my career,” admitted Bright. “When you fill Wembley playing in an FA Cup semi-final with two teams from the same city, you realise how big a game it is.”
It was a hard-fought battle but Wednesday prevailed following goals by Chris Waddle and Bright, with Alan Cork on target for United. It was the first of four quick-fire visits to the national stadium in a golden period for the Owls.
Bright, a first-team regular under Trevor Francis, said: “We knew what to expect.
“Dave Bassett was in charge of United at the time and we expected it to be a physical challenge. We knew they would never stop running and chasing every lost cause.
“We had to make sure we defended well and got headers and bodies in the way of everything.
“I think everyone would acknowledge we had the better players on paper but that doesn’t mean anything. You have to go out there and perform on the day.
“United had a great team spirit and never say die attitude. They tried to upset our rhythm and gave everything they had.
“We had exceptional international footballers but it was a level playing field on the day.
“It was great for us coming away from the stadium ‘thinking we have dispensed with them, now let’s see who wins between Arsenal and Spurs.’
How did it feel beating United on the big stage?
“It was a fantastic sensation to hear the final whistle,” said Bright. “Losing in the final is one thing. Losing in the semis is another.
“If you lose in the semis, you don’t actually get the big day-out. When I was at Palace, we beat Liverpool in the semi-finals and it was an amazing feeling of relief and joy.
“And then everyone starts to talk about Wembley and the final.
“Not only did we win the semi-final against United but we won the most important game in the city’s history, really.
“If United had won that game, we would never have heard the last of it!
“The derbies are great matches. At boardroom level, there is mutual respect as everyone is trying to achieve the same thing and be successful.
“For the fans, they are just desperate to win the game so they have the bragging rights going into work on Monday morning.
“For the players, it is a big game you want to win. If you score the winning goal, you can go down in history. You’re the man everyone talks about that weekend.”
As Bright is keen to stress, the Steel City derby is no ordinary fixture. He stated: “They are great matches to be involved in but there is an edge to them.
“Afterwards the players shake hands and have a beer and laugh together but they want to win just as much as everybody else.
“If you don’t approach the games in the right manner, you will get beat. It is as simple as that.
“It is only three points on offer but it means so much to you as an individual and the fans.