Songs about Barry Bannan and an Owls shirt at the Olympics – The Sheffield Wednesday story of Olympian Katy Livingston
“I can’t wait to take my four-year-old,” says Katy Livingston, 2008 Olympian and lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan… “I’ve converted him into a Wednesdayite already.”in
With the sporting history that our fair county has as its disposal, you don’t have to look too far to find successful athletes with a connection to the Steel City – and in Livingston the Owls have a fan with World and European Championship medals to her name.
In our latest look at well-known Wednesday supporters, we got in touch with the modern pentathlete about her story following the men in blue and white, looking back on her favourite players, favourite games, and how she’s doing her bit to make sure her kids grow up with the same great taste in football teams.
But as always, we start at the very beginning. Why is a girl from Redcar, North Yorkshire, following the blue and white wizards?
“My dad is from Sheffield, he grew up there as a big Wednesday fan, and his brothers still live there,” Livingston explained to The Star. “But I think I forced myself upon it rather than the other way around. The more he tried to put me off, the more I pushed, and in the end he gave up and ended up taking me to a couple of matches and bought me a shirt. I think he’s pleased now, because we talk on matchdays and going to matches, and it’s really nice for us.”
Since her first game, a 1-1 draw with Coventry City in 1992, she’s been hooked. Making plenty of trips to Hillsborough and watching the Owls elsewhere around the country whenever the opportunity has arisen.
She went on to say, “Some of my earliest memories, actually, are asking my dad every Saturday, ‘Where are we now?’ - we were in the First Division and he’d tell me second or third. I was always really disappointed that we weren’t first - obviously I’d be well chuffed if we were second or third now!”
Livingston has never made any secret of her Wednesday roots, and the Wednesday family were behind her in 2008 as she made her way to the Olympic Games – an encounter that ended up leaving her Wednesdayite dad with a new friend as well.
“In Beijing in 2008, there was a TeamGB supporter – and Wednesdayite - who knew that I was a Wednesday fan, so he wore his Owls shirt when he came to cheer me on in the pentathlon.
“Funnily enough, he happened to be sat near my dad - which is incredible given the size of the stadium – and they got chatting. They have stayed in touch ever since, and we have met him a few times before matches!”
And as an athlete herself, she knows how much that support can mean. Which is why she says she’s never understood players being booed – no matter the situation.
She explained, “I do find it quite hard when fans shout abuse and get on their backs… This season there’s been no excuse because there’s been no fans, so I don’t know what’s gone wrong, but previously I just wonder what fans want to achieve by shouting abuse - if it was me I’d just want to get off the pitch.
“I think I probably see things a bit differently, but everyone is human and makes mistakes - I don’t like that side of it. I just don’t see how it helps.’
Nowadays there’s not much to cheer about, to be fair, but while her earliest poster (that she still has) features the likes of Chris Waddle, David Hirst and other stars of the early 90s – and she recalls a love of Benito Carbone and the craziness of Paolo Di Canio – it’s a different Chris that features in her happiest memories.
‘Do you have a favourite Wednesday game ever?’, we asked. “I’ve got three,” Livingston replied with a chuckle. “Is that alright?”
“It’s probably the same for a lot of fans,” she recalled. “But one of my best memories was the game in Cardiff in 2005, that was an incredible day.
“Then there was the time when me and my dad went to Leicester away. Chris Brunt scored that wonder goal. It was 4-1, and after Brunt there was Glenn Whelan and Marcus Tudgay scored stunning goals as well. I remember that game so well because of the goals, but also because it was away from home.
“And the other was the 2012 promotion… The way the Wycombe fans were cheering, and the way people celebrated when United came up on the scoreboard and were losing – it was as though we’d scored. The timing of that season was perfection, taking them over after clawing them back. It was amazing.”
And now, following the birth of her two kids, she’s bringing up the next generation. Who’ll hopefully have a few more things to smile about in years to come.
“I miss not being able to get to as many matches now, I do miss it,” she said. “But I can’t wait to take my four-year-old. I’ve converted him into a Wednesdayite already. He can sing the Barry Bannan song, and knows that he’s the captain. I’ve been training him up.
“Yesterday he asked me to sing the ‘Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday’ song to him! I’m just glad he doesn’t understand about relegation yet, so I can still pretend to him that we’re decent.”