Sheffield Wednesday cult hero Ryan Lowe talks promotion, his relationship with the fans and one day taking the Hillsborough hotseat
“I feel like I’ve got unfinished business there,” Ryan Lowe admits in his friendly scouse timbre on a train to London from Plymouth, his adopted home. “I never really got the chance to say goodbye.”
On the face of it, it’s an odd turn of phrase for a player that spent only one season at Sheffield Wednesday.
But the fact is that there was so much more to Lowe’s time at Hillsborough than a credible tally of eight goals in 26 appearances. His battling attitude and knack of scoring goals at key times garnered mutual respect with a Sheffield Wednesday fanbase more accustomed to watching bigger names.
Lowe, now the highly-rated manager of Plymouth Argyle, laughs when The Star tells him the ear-worming tune of ‘We’ve got Ryan Lowe’ was heard on a train to the Owls’ November win at Charlton, some seven years on from his hurried departure to MK Dons in August 2012.
And asked why he felt that bond had lived on, he said: “What they'd seen was a 32-year-old striker who left everything on the pitch. I fought for them and knew what those fans were about.
“That song was unbelievable,” he beamed. “The first time I heard them singing that? Wow.
“It was a couple of games in, I was a sub away at Tranmere and I was getting stick from their fans on the side warming up.
“It was 1-1, I came on with 15 minutes to go and I scored the winner. Well, I was last off the pitch, I milked it for everything. I can still remember the noise and everyone cheering my name.
“It was phenomenal, there are hairs standing up on the back of my neck now. Unbelievable.”
He arrived at Wednesday aged 32 off the back of successful stints at Chester and Bury and while there have been many highlights, he says, that promotion-winning 2011/12 season was the apex of his career.
That trip to Tranmere earned an early win in what became a dramatic promotion tug-of-war with Sheffield United, the mid-season departure of Blades talisman Ched Evans turning the battle in Wednesday’s favour as they went up as runners-up to Charlton, just three points ahead of their third-place city rivals.
That battle was one of the reasons Lowe chose to sign for the club amid approaches from Bradford and Bournemouth, he says, admitting that alongside his native Liverpool derby and that of Glasgow, he was “brought up on the Steel derby.”
So in playing in the 1-0 win over United at Hillsborough that season, Lowe had achieved a lifelong dream in what was, incredibly, Gary Megson’s last result as Wednesday manager. Paying tribute to the Wednesday legend’s no-nonsense style of management, Lowe recalls how he was told he would be playing.
“We were in training and he [Megson] pulled me to one side,” Lowe said.
“He asked me, 'Have you ever played in front of 35,000?', I said 'You're joking aren't you gaffer? I've barely played in front of 4,000!'
“He just said 'Well enjoy this one, son, you're playing in the derby on Sunday'. I was buzzing with it.
“I remember us giving it massive. A few of our lads were giving it the fist pump to the Sheffield United fans. We milked it for the fans really. For us to win a derby and get promoted the way we did was excellent.”
Lowe expresses a tinge of regret in the way his departure from Hillsborough was handled, revealing he had been promised another year at S6 minutes before setting off on a celebratory end-of-season holiday.
“We were going to Nottingham Airport to take us to Marbella, Mandaric had paid for us to all go,” he said.
“I found Dave Jones and asked for a word. He said I had to get on the coach and enjoy myself but I needed to know what was going on, my future was more important.”
Jones reassured him that there would be a place for him in the following season’s squad and that, at the age of 33, he would get a chance in the Championship. That chance never came.
“I went off and had the best holiday of my life,” Lowe said. “I came back the fittest of everyone and then out of nowhere, I got a phone call from someone saying that they'd offered me out to MK Dons and Doncaster.
“I went to him in pre-season and he said he was replacing me but that I wouldn't be disappointed with who it was. He said, ‘It's Rodri from Barcelona.’”
Lowe moved to MK Dons and a handful of spells in the lower leagues followed, including two returns to his beloved Bury, who he went on to manage to the League Two title before their tragic demise.
Now in charge at promotion-chasing Plymouth, a 41-year-old Lowe described the need to give Garry Monk time to stamp his authority at Wednesday and revealed an ambition of one day taking the Hillsborough hotseat.
“I'm still learning my trade but at some point in the future, I'd love to manage Sheffield Wednesday,” he said.
“In years to come who knows where football takes you? Especially football management. One day, you never know.
“I feel like I've got unfinished business there because of the way I left. I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye to the fans because I was there one minute and then I was being told I had to move on.
“I'd like to think one day I could manage the football club.”