When a current Sheffield Wednesday staff member - and Derby County - helped relegate the Owls 31 years ago today

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In some ways, it was this weekend’s scenario in reverse.

Sheffield Wednesday who had looked safe and were heading deep into midtable just weeks earlier, needed just a point on the final day of the season to secure First Division safety. Plucky Luton Town, three points back, were the chasers.

It was May 5 1990 and Wednesday were set to welcome Nottingham Forest to Hillsborough. Lose, and a win for the Hatters at Derby County would see the Owls relegated.

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This was a Wednesday side that shouldn’t be in that position. Ron Atkinson was their manager, they had talent such as World Cup-bound Roland Nilsson and John Sheridan, they had Carlton Palmer, David Hirst, Trevor Francis and Dalian Atkinson.

Sheffield Wednesday were relegated in dramatic fashion on this day 31 years ago.Sheffield Wednesday were relegated in dramatic fashion on this day 31 years ago.
Sheffield Wednesday were relegated in dramatic fashion on this day 31 years ago.

But they froze. Forest raced into a 3-0 lead as Wednesday spurned countless chances. If Luton won at Derby, Wednesday were down.

With little way of knowing the score 32 miles away at the Baseball Ground aside from listening into crackling transistor radio signal, eyes were drawn to a wooden scoreboard in the corner of Hillsborough indicating the scores elsewhere. It was 3-2 to Luton.

The Hatters had darted into a 2-0 lead through Tim Breacker and Kingsley Black but had been pulled back to 2-2 thanks to England centre-half Mark Wright and a certain Paul Williams; not he who would sign for Wednesday just months later, but the Paul Williams who is now first team coach at Darren Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday.

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When Black’s second handed Luton a 3-2 lead, thanks partly to a slip by the 19-year-old Williams, the Owls looked doomed. That was until the wooden Hillsborough scoreboard was changed. In the dying moments, it appeared, Derby had equalised. Wednesday were safe.

The scoreline was false. Derby’s goal had been disallowed and confusion hung over S6. It was only with an announcement over the PA system that the Owls’ relegation was confirmed to the waiting masses.

In what was a huge shock, Wednesday were relegated to the Second Division and what followed in the 1990/91 season, of course, was the stuff of legend.

Wednesday will be hoping to ‘do a Luton’ and stage a dramatic, last day escape from the Championship relegation spots when they play Derby this weekend. Perhaps, 31 years on, the Rams owe them one.



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