Why Chris Waddle turned down Howard Wilkinson and Leeds United to join Sheffield Wednesday

It was the transfer that delivered who many believe to be the greatest player ever to play for Sheffield Wedesday to S6.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 5:00 pm

And nearly 30 years on from Chris Waddle’s surprise switch from Marseille to Sheffield Wednesday, the magician himself has spoken about the other Premier League clubs that were interested – and how he turned down Owls icon Howard Wilkinson at Leeds United.

Speaking at a Q&A event at The Park pub in Hillsborough last week, Waddle said: “The first two years I’d had at Marseille were great. The third year we didn’t qualify for the latter stages of the Champions League, which they’d banked on.

“Some banks knocked on the door and said ‘we need money’, so there were a few of us that needed to go.”

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Sheffield Wednesday icon Chris Waddle played for the club in the early-to-mid 90s.

Within a few days of news hitting these shores that Waddle was available for transfer – alongside the likes of England colleague Trevor Steven, French legend Jean-Pierre Papin and Argentina international Leonardo Rodríguez – Owls boss Trevor Francis set about on a solo mission to complete the deal, travelling to Paris to meet with Marseille owner Bernard Tapie.

The prospect of a move to South Yorkshire immediately appealed to the winger. West Yorkshire? Not so much.

“I didn’t know too much about Trevor coming to Paris, but he rang us up,” Waddle remembered. “I was on holiday in America and straight away I was interested. I said to him ‘if we can get something together, then great’.

“Then I had Leeds ring us up, it was Howard Wilkinson. He was chewing a sandwich at the time which I wasn’t too impressed with.

“I wasn’t all that interested. He told me they’d just won the league, which I knew of course. I was honest with him, I had images of his Sheffield Wednesday side playing against Newcastle and all these long balls and set pieces. I couldn’t play that style of football and I told him that.

“Well that didn’t go down as well as I thought! They’d just won the league but I wanted to enjoy my football.”

Waddle won the FWA Player of the Year award for his performances in a maiden 1992/93 season that saw Wednesday reach the final of both domestic cups.

He left the club in 1996 but still lives locally and watches Wednesday matches, travelling to a handful of away matches this season.

And while there was interest from a handful of clubs – not least a team managed by a certain Ron Atkinson – it was Wednesday that had his heart from the initial conversation.

Waddle said: “There were rumours about Blackburn and Villa and others teams, but in France we used to get highlights of English football on a Sunday night and I’d watch Wednesday.

“They were a good side who played good football and when Trevor rang me up I thought ‘I can play in that team’.

“Of all the clubs I’ve ever been to, I’ve always wanted to play football. I looked at Wednesday with Sheridan and Hirsty and thought I wanted to play good football really.

“It was an easy decision to make really.”