A limo full of beer, sneaking the Owls onto Eastenders and getting kicked out at Arsenal – The Sheffield Wednesday story of actor Ian Reddington
He went from selling shirts outside Hillsborough to Brian Laws turning up at his wedding and sneaking Sheffield Wednesday into a scene on Eastenders, but what else does Ian Reddington have to say about the club he’s supported for about half a century?
In this month’s edition of our look at the Owls’ famous fans, we tracked down the former Eastenders and Coronation Street star about his love affair with a club that has given him some amazing memories over the years.
But first up, as always, we need to know where it all began…
“Well my dad was a Unitedite, but for me, your brain develops doesn’t it?” he joked as he told The Star of his first Wednesday memory. “When I was very little I think we used to alternate between the clubs, but I was born in Sheffield 6 so Hillsborough wasn’t a million miles away.
“One of my first games was in 1967, I was about nine-years-old I think, and I remember it because we beat Burnley 7-0 and David Ford scored a hattrick. The late 60s as a Wednesdayite was fabulous, and then it went drastically downhill in the 70s.”
But unlike so many of today’s supporters, Reddington was able to enjoy some really golden years following the blue and white wizards, and alongside his musician mate, Martyn Ware, they have plenty of happy memories.
He reminisced, “There was a point where I was selling shirts outside the Leppings Lane end. I’d designed them based on the Brazil flag, because we were playing like Brazil and had the fantastic away kit that was a bit like theirs… I’d sell what I could, then go and spend the money in the ground.
“I actually managed to talk Eastenders into letting me wear that shirt in an episode!
“The 90s were unbelievable… At one stage we were hiring a limousine and going to Wembley in it. On the back we put a big sign saying ‘Owlsmobile’, and we’d hand beer out of the window to fans.
“For the League Cup final we were there really early, driving around and winding up a few Arsenal fans. It became a bit of a regular thing, the company ended up knowing us so we’d rent a limo and head down to Wembley in it.”
And there were plenty of trips to Wembley, as you’ll know very well. In April and May 1993 they were at the national stadium on four separate occasions – so much so that Reddington and Ware released a record about it…
“That’s how the ‘If it’s Wembley, it must be Wednesday’ idea started…” he explained. “Before we had the famous picture with them all in shades, I remember having a meeting at Nigel Pearson’s house – and he was frightening – where he just lectured us basically. He was captain, and he was fabulous.
“We said that any money that was made would be shared out, and he was quite rightly just being careful. But they knew us by then, we were on a roll and me and Martyn just went and bought a load of sunglasses and they were well up for it. There was a momentum, and Arsenal had a record out that we wanted to compete with.”
It wasn’t the only record though, and one earlier track had to be quickly changed up following a bad result…
“We had one that had a hook that said, ‘We’re going to win the cup for steel city’, but then we lost in the semifinal and quickly had to change it to ‘Move on up for steel city’ instead. That was the first record, but obviously we couldn’t release it with the original lyrics!”
Reddington, one of a select few to have appeared on both Eastenders and Coronation Street, grew so close with that group of players that he ended up at more than one Wednesday wedding – and later down the line saw a former manager turn up at his!
He said, “When I was getting married, Brian Laws got the players to make a video at the training ground and gave it to me as a wedding present… He came to the wedding – which was the day before the derby against United. I loved that. He told me he wasn’t letting any of the players come, and then we won the game the next day. It was brilliant.”
The 63-year-old, who named David Hirst as his favourite ever Owl and John Harkes’ thunderbolt against Derby County as his favourite goal, has tried to remain subdued after his celebrity status gave him certain access.
But it’s not always worked…
He laughed as he remembered one occasion when his emotions got the best of him, saying, “I’ve been escorted from a ground when I was given an official ticket from the club… I was in the VIP area at Arsenal, and I just couldn’t help myself. They asked me to leave and ‘join your own fans’, and sent me off into the away end. It happened at Reading too.
“At Arsenal I was jumping on a seat and some photographers ended up taking pictures. It was pretty calm, but when you see the photos you just think, ‘Oh God, what was I doing?’”
Sadly for the man fondly known as ‘Tricky Dicky’ or Vernon, depending on which side of the soap divide you fall on, it’s going to be a while until he - or any fans - get back to Hillsborough…
But when the time comes, he’ll be doing his best to get back. Possibly even in a homemade shirt if he can dig one out from somewhere.