Promotion double would be perfect for Steel City

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RON Atkinson used to say that he preferred local rivals to be in the same division as whatever team he was managing - so long as his side were beating them and above them in the table.

That probably goes against the grain for the most fanatical of fans who want to see the other lot as low down the league as possible.

It’s a bit like the old joke that, I seem to remember, did the rounds when Sheffield’s two teams were in the top flight and it went something like this:

A Wednesday/United supporter wakes up after an accident and asks: “Where am I?” He is told: “The Northern General.”

So he says: “What happened to the second, third and fourth divisions?”

The gut feeling of many Sheffield fans might be to feel pleased if the rivals miss out on promotion this season.

But there is a wider picture and I agree with Gary Megson that it would be good if they both go up.

It would add interest to the season, with Championship football in the city every Saturday, and with fans enthralled by how the clubs fare against the opposition at a higher level and against each other.

Seeing them both at the top end of League One has brought that extra bit of spice to this season. Imagine what it would be like if they were both in the Premier League.

The way things are going, one may win automatic promotion, the other may be in the play-offs, for it looks as if Charlton will take some catching.

If both end up in the play-offs, then it will be a tense time.

Meanwhile, Milan Mandaric has had a time that he could have done without, when he had the tax evasion charge hanging over him. But he knew that justice would prevail.

Now he can concentrate just on the football - and an attempt by the Owls to finally put to rest an unhappy spell of last season.

The team have already earned revenge against Exeter by beating them 3-0 at Hillsborough this season.

But when they go to St James Park tomorrow it will invoke memories again of their 5-1 defeat there in December, 2010.

They had beaten Bristol Rovers 6-2 on Mandaric’s home ‘debut’ and were entering a new era.

But the Exeter result marked the start of a dodgy spell that resulted in Alan Irvine losing his job. In came Megson, first to stabilise the club in the league, then to rebuild the squad and lead a promotion challenge.

Going to St James Park makes you see how the other half live. It is like a non-league ground, and apparently the club are among the lowest payers in League One, as they struggle along on an average attendance of 4,385, which means that the ground is around half full.

The need to play and maintain a cash flow could have explained why the club did everything in their power to get last season’s game against the Owls on; there were piles of cleared snow at the sides of the pitch.

Defeat was followed by a horrendous trip home through the snowbound Midlands for Sheffield folk. Tomorrow’s football and travel just have to be better.