My Favourite Player: How David Hirst underpinned a football bond between a Wednesdayite and his Barnsley-supporting dad

In the third edition of our ‘My Favourite Player’ series, Matthew Thomas explains how 90s goal machine David Hirst took a five-year-old football heart with him from Oakwell to Hillsborough and signalled an unspoken father-son bond that goes beyond South Yorkshire rivalry.

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th March 2020, 2:46 pm

“I grew up in a family where dad was a Barnsley fan and mother waxed lyrical about Revie’s Leeds United.

For years my old man took me to games at Oakwell and I’d sit on the wall at the front, watching below-average football, against my will, only to get home and hear my old mother tell us how great Leeds of her era were in comparison. It was a football upbringing just short of child neglect!

I will never forget the buzz of walking down towards the ground for my first evening kick-off; the floodlights beckoning us towards the masses, the old fella with his flat cap full of badges selling programmes, the click of the turnstiles.

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Happy memories they were, but for some reason, Oakwell just never quite felt like home.

My dad is the type of bloke who somehow got to meet players wherever he went and was always coming home with scraps of paper with autographs for us, mainly Barnsley players.

In that era the one player who really stood out for me was David Hirst, he was explosive, had a thundering shot and it’s fair to say my old man had a huge affinity for him.

I will never forget how the air turned blue when he found out how ‘Judas’ had jumped ship to Wednesday. He was genuinely hurt. I was only five but it’s fair to say that some of my earliest memories are based around that era and that transfer.

David Hirst made the switch from Barnsley to Sheffield Wednesday in 1986.

I was clearly not getting the Oakwell bug and instead, I listened to my older brothers talk about players they saw on TV, in the papers, in our football magazines and without really realising it, I was becoming a Wednesday fan.

Owls posters started making their way to my bedroom walls and with some glee, my mother managed to buy me Wednesday hats, bags and the rest of it. At Christmas time and friends of the family who were Owls took me under their wing, much to the chagrin of my old man.

Looking back, though, it’s safe to say Hirsty took me with him to S6.

It is with great warmth that I look back to a moment some years later when my dad finally accepted that I was a Wednesdayite.

“Guess who I bumped into today?” he gushed, on returning from work one afternoon. Into my hand, he thrust a signed postcard of Hirst, in the famous blue and white stripes.

We still have shared moments at Oakwell, the floodlights beckoning us towards the masses, remembering the old fella with his flat cap full of badges selling programmes, the clicking of the turnstiles.

I sit beside him in the home end, talking Barnsley, thinking of Hillsborough, always thankful that he allowed me to find my own place in football as a Wednesday fan.”