‘It’s been too long for the fans...’ Nigel Pearson looks back on 30 years of (mostly) Sheffield Wednesday hurt on anniversary of Wembley League Cup glory
Nigel Pearson took a deep intake of breath and stared over the heads of the gathered reporters into the empty South Stand at Hillsborough stadium.
Reminded by The Star that it was three decades today he lifted the Rumbelows Cup to signal the greatest achievement of a Sheffield football side in the modern era, he puffed out his cheeks and smiled.
“Have you seen this?," he laughed, pointing to his greyed hair when asked whether 30 years felt like a long time. “I don’t exactly look like a pup anymore! This morning I actually saw a photograph of myself when we were at the Town Hall celebrating and I’ve aged, put it that way.”
Pearson was the captain and man of the match when Wednesday beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United at Wembley.
Though much of the analysis of that day is wrapped up in Roland Nilsson’s expert handling of danger man Lee Sharpe, that the skipper and Peter Shirtliff were able to snuff out the threat of Mark Hughes was some feat. The Welshman won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award that season.
Wednesday were promoted that season and remain the only side from outside the top tier to win a major English trophy.
“It’s been 30 years and it feels an awful long time ago,” Pearson said. “My daughter is 30 and she’s expecting her first baby, which I think puts life in perspective somewhat.
“When you look at Sheffield Wednesday it’s been a long time since the fans have had the enjoyment they have craved and at the moment it looks a difficult task. Let’s just hope the good times come again.”
The barren stands provided a fitting backdrop for what was a solemn mood at Hillsborough. Pearson was speaking after his 10-man Bristol City side grabbed a late equaliser to throw a knife into Wednesday survival hopes.
The 57-year-old, who scored five goals in nine matches in the ‘91 cup run, has made no secret of his attachment to the club; his family are Wednesdayites and he still lives in Sheffield.
Asked whether he felt a sadness about the state of the club, he said: “I understand what you mean.
“It’s frustrating and it’s happened to quite a few clubs as well, but hopefully they can turn. They have to turn it around. It might be that a rebuild from a relegation is needed.
“The reality of dealing with that is that there is no point being doom and gloom about it. It’s about how you find solutions."
Pearson worked with Owls boss Darren Moore when he coached him at West Brom and provided a glowing reference. Moore is out of action at current as he recovers from pneumonia.
“It’s a tough time for Wednesday,” Pearson said. “Especially with Darren not being here at the moment. He’s got really good staff. I feel for them and I still have a lot of fondness for the club. It’s a big part of both mine and my family’s life.
“I just hope Darren is OK first and foremost and that he gets the chance to work with his staff to turn the situation around.
“His personality is what the club needs at the moment.”