Sheffield Wednesday: Gary Megson sunburn, promotion and a teammate built like a Marvel superhero - David Prutton's Owls memories
David Prutton shuffled into Middlewood Road for the first time with a pinch of nerves only the first morning of a new job can give you.
Shaking hands with one or two of the other early arrivals and brushing his thick mane of long, dark hair behind his ears from time to time, he settled into a seat in the changing room when his new boss burst through the door like a ginger sheriff at a saloon bar.
“Ey, Prutton,” Gary Megson said with the sort of cut-throat delivery he was famed for. “I thought you wa’ getting that bloody mop cut off before you turned up?”
Having suffered a ‘season from hell’ with relegated Swindon Town, the Hull-born 29-year-old knew immediately he was back in Yorkshire. And he planned to make the most of it.
Now the face of Sky Sports’ Championship football coverage, he spoke to The Star while taking advantage of the June sunshine in his garden.
“I'd been at Swindon and we'd had an awful time,” he said. “We weren't a very good team and there was absolutely no semblance of team spirit or anything you'd need to put a team together. I'd had the chance to join Wednesday earlier when I’d joined Swindon. From a footballing point of view it was a ridiculous decision.
“At the end of that season we played Wednesday at Hillsborough, I knew Neil Thompson from our time at Leeds and we got chatting. I’d had an awful time at Swindon and they wanted rid of me and a few others, so it made sense for all of us.
“Growing up in Yorkshire I was so wary of Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday Sheffield United. It was a huge privilege to think I would step out at Hillsborough as a member of the home team and I couldn't wait.
“I flew back from Spain where we were on holiday to sign and that was that. I was a Wednesday player.”
A member of the last squad that dragged Wednesday out of the third tier in his first season, Prutton’s three years at the club straddled the reigns of as many different managers, with Dave Jones and Stuart Gray following on from Megson’s time.
Prutton laughs when asked to regale his memories of the brutal pre-season tasks his former manager would lay on to his players.
He remembers Megson sending his players up to Grenoside for a particularly gruelling run in the afternoon heat. The manager would wander into the woods to keep an eye on matters and ensure there was no slacking.
But some time after the players had finished, they realised he was the only man yet to return to the coach waiting to take them back to their training ground.
“It was high summer and being of, let's say a 'fair-skinned persuasion', he was puce when he came down into the woods,” Prutton laughed. “You could barely contain the laughter when he came down, we were all begging the driver to drive off and leave him.
“What I'd thank Meggo for is allow me to play for a club that everybody has heard of, with that fan base and stadium, with the likes of Sheridan, Waddle, Hirst, Walker passing the shirt on to you in a way. You're standing on the shoulders of giants in that little incarnation of what Wednesday was.
“He told me one time about going to see Bruce Springsteen in New York. It was just a little common touch that he used. He was genial company, then three o'clock would come and you're stood thinking ‘Am I really that useless? Does he really need to call me that word quite so many times?’
“There were games he'd call you a certain word for 90 minutes, non-stop. He was in-your-face confrontational, but off the pitch he was ace, he loved music and would sit and talk to you about all sorts.
“Above all, you could tell how much it meant to him to be manager of Sheffield Wednesday. Vicariously you realised you had to give a s*** about Sheffield Wednesday. If you don't care, sod off. He made that clear.”
They were promoted ahead of city rivals Sheffield United at the end of that first season.
“We had good leaders and a very good team spirit,” he said. “The dynamics were great; Madine and Morrison and others were mad, then you had Chris O'Grady built like a Marvel superhero, but quiet as a mouse.
“We got to an end of season do in Marbella after we got up and he asked us 'what do we do here then?' We told him we were there to get p*ssed for three days and he just looked confused. We only saw him for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It was such a mix of lads that came together and clicked.”
Injuries curtailed some of Prutton’s time at Hillsborough and he spent time on loan at Scunthorpe and Coventry before retiring at the age of just 32 – not through injury but by choice – in 2014. Wednesday, for whom he played 61 times, was his last full-time club.
He said: “Whenever I go back with work everyone has been great, but it's such a well-loved, honest football club with good supporters that I hope realised I gave everything when I played for the club.
“However good you think it is to play in front of those fans at that ground, it's better.
“I'm an honest guy and I know I'll never go down as one of the best or exalted players and I appreciate my very, very small place in that club's history, but my word it's one hell of an experience. It's a special, special place.”