STEVEN Haslam will experience a strange feeling when he walks towards the away dressing room at Hillsborough today.
The Hartlepool defender is a Sheffield lad, a Wednesdayite and a former Owls player who came through their youth system.
He will be aiding the Pools cause but also hopes that come the end of the season his old club are going up.
“It’s strange when you walk in and are turning right to the away dressing room,” says the 32-year-old who played regularly in the Premier League for Wednesday and made 171 apearances for them between 1999 and 2004.
After going through the Hillsborough players’ entrance, teams go into a corridor where the home room is on the left and the away one on the right.
His career took a sad turn when he was one of 13 players released in 2004 by Chris Turner.
Haslam dropped into the Conference to join Halifax but bounced back to play for Northampton and Bury, and was taken to Hartlepool by Turner in 2009.
He has not been a regular this season but played as a sub in last week’s 0-0 draw at Exeter. He also figured in Pools’ 2-0 defeat at Hillsborough in April.
“It never leaves you,” he says of his love of the Owls. “Wednesday are up there at the moment. If they get promoted it will be great. But on Saturday I’ve got to protect my personal pride.”
Pools are looking to avenge a 1-0 home defeat by the Owls in October.
“It’s very close at the top,” says Haslam. “People are saying Charlton are going to occupy one of the promotion slots. They haven’t had a wobble. It’s very rare that a team doesn’t have some sort of wobble.
“Charlton might not win for two or three games and that gives an opportunity to the others. I can see it being really tight to the end.
“Both Sheffield clubs are up there and Huddersfield, and MK Dons though I’m not sure they’ll stay up there. They’ve all got decent squads and a choice of players in every position.
“Charlton beat us 4-0 and were very good. We played United a few weeks ago and they looked strong. They had Beattie and Montgomery on the bench; that’s some indication of the squad they’ve got.
“Charlton have recruited Danny Haynes. He was a sought-after player; probably a couple of Championship clubs were looking at him. Charlton are strengthening from a position of strength.
“I speak to friends and people who go and watch Wednesday, and I see quick clips of the goals. I know the individuals; I know their strengths.”
Despite the exit of Ben Marshall, he adds: “They have players to come in. We know we’re in for a tough afternoon.”
Pools’ other ex-Owls, Ritchie Humphreys, was an unused substitute last week. He says: “It was a good performance. The game could have gone either way, like a lot of games in this division, and it’’s vital to get the first goal.
“A lot of teams outside the top few are competing hard against each other. It’s a good standard, it’s improved year on year. We want to go out at Hillsborough with a solid game plan. Our away form has been okay.
“Wednesday have a good squad and a fantastic crowd. It will be a tough game for us.”