Sheffield Wednesday: ‘I missed the 1983 FA Cup semi-final because I had to go swimming’ … Ipswich Town boss Paul Hurst on being a boyhood Owls fan

Wednesday fan and Ipswich boss Paul Hurst
Wednesday fan and Ipswich boss Paul Hurst

He'll sit in the opposition dug-out tomorrow desperate to see Sheffield Wednesday lose, but lifelong Owls fan Paul Hurst still recalls the thrill of running out on to the hallowed Hillsborough pitch as a kid.

Manager Hurst brings his Ipswich Town team to S6 for a Championship clash tomorrow, 30-odd years after he was in the Sheffield Boys side that used to tread the turf of his beloved club.

In his Millers playing days

In his Millers playing days

"They were my team growing up," said the 43-year-old Sheffield-born left-back who set a post-war record forRotherham United appearances before making his way in management with Grimsby Town, Shrewsbury Town and now the Tractor Boys.

"Playing for Sheffield Boys, I got to play out on the pitch quite a few times.

“I’ve seen the stadium change, I’ve seen some very good players there and good teams at various points.

“I went to the game the other night (the 2-1 victory over Millwall), which brought back some memories. When they come out and the songs get going, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up a little.

Hurst faces former teammate Paul Warne at Wembley last season

Hurst faces former teammate Paul Warne at Wembley last season

“But come Saturday there’s only one team I want to win, that’s for sure - and it isn’t Sheffield Wednesday.”

Hurst is focused on a first win of the season for Ipswich, the team he joined in the summer after guiding the Shrews to the League One Play-off Final at Wembley whey they lost, ironically, to Rotherham, managed by his former Millers teammate and close pal, Paul Warne.

However, his memories of following great Owls teams of the past remain strong.

“In the first one, Gary Bannister was the big hero," he said. "And Gary Shelton. 

"That was the team that reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup (against Brighton in 1983). I wasn’t allowed to go. I had to go swimming while my dad went down to Highbury, and they lost.

“Then there was the team with Brian Marwood in it, again a very good team. I watched them lose an FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park against Everton (in 1986). I’ve seen a few. And obviously when they won the League Cup with John Sheridan’s goal (1991)."

Hurst's side have opened their second-tier campaign with two draws and two defeats and the manager isn't sure what to expect from Jos Luhukay's men who recorded their own first league victory by seeing off the Lions on Wednesday

“They’ve changed their system already at times," he said. "Their personnel’s changed. It’s not a game where I can tell you exactly what they’re going to do.

“They’ve given quite a lot of young players opportunities. Certainly on Wednesday when I watched them, there were quite a few in the team, with what many fans and other people would say were stronger players on the bench.

"Whether that was because they’re playing Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday and just mixing it up or whether they stick with what was a winning team if people are fit, I don’t know."

Meanwhile, loyalties are split in the inner circle of Hurst whose father and brother both follow the Owls.

“I’ve got friends at the game and will be seeing some of them afterwards," he said. "They want Sheffield Wednesday to win, but not by too many!

“My family want me to win on this occasion. I think so, anyway! Some of them will be there."

"It’s a nice occasion. It's not something I’m not getting too wrapped up in, but it will be a special moment in one way to lead a team out at Hillsborough.

“When that whistle goes and it’s game on, we’ll be looking to try to get that first victory.”

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