40,000 had a dream - The day incredible Sheffield Wednesday fans were the true heroes of Wembley

Full disclosure: I can remember about three aspects of this game.

By Chris Holt
Thursday, 28th May 2020, 6:40 am
Updated Thursday, 28th May 2020, 8:29 am

Keiren Westwood made a few great saves; Mo Diame scored a superb goal to win it and the third... well, that was the stand-out take from the entire occasion.

Wembley - May 28, 2016 and Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City stunk the place out, on the pitch at least.

It was a match high in expectation and as is often the case in games where there is so much at stake, desperately low on quality, save for the interventions of Messrs Westwood and Diame.

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The real magic was happening in the West End of the famous venue.

Forty-thousand had a dream, to paraphrase an anthem of the day, indeed the season. They're still dreaming now, but even taking into account the scoreline that went against them, Sheffield Wednesday, and their fans particularly, assembled in huge numbers and rose again to heights they once graced with such regularity.

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For when you think about the 2016 Play-Off Final now, you don't think about the match itself - though the eventual long-term fall-out from the defeat would end up being close to shambolic - but what was going on around the stadium.

SHeffield Wednesday fans out-performed their own team at Wembley for the Play-Off Final against Hull City in 2016. IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images)

The noise. The tremor beneath your feet that came with 'the bounce'. The colour. While pockets of red from the unsold seats broke up the Tigers' amber hue at the East End, blue and white were all that could be seen opposite, flickering through flags and banners brought from all corners of the United Kingdom.

'We're Sheffield Wednesday...we're on our way back,' they sang. And they were right to think that way. They had cause to dream. A reason to believe.

Wednesday's surge towards finding themselves 90 minutes from a return to the Premier League after such a huge and unexpected gap had come as a surprise. Investment in the squad, at last, had reaped rewards and a swashbuckling, parka-clad, charismatic manager in Carlos Carvalhal had brought a sense of adventure to Hillsborough.

There were times in this, his first season in charge, when the Portuguese's side appeared as likely to win 3-0 as lose by the same scoreline. The fun was back in S6.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Sheffield Wednesday supporters enjoy the atmosphere prior to Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Whether they froze and became consumed by the occasion, or were just beaten by a better team, is up for debate.

Carvalhal himself admitted his team didn't perform as they had done for much of the campaign.

"We tried to do our best, we tried to play our football," he told us immediately afterwards. "But we did not play today like we usually play. We play better than this during the season."

However, while those in blue and white on the pitch failed to turn up for the big day, the thousands around them certainly didn't.

Such was the pitiful offering in front of us, I can recall being drawn to the crowd more than the 'action'. This was a giant awakened. A giant that had been made to feel miniscule by its surroundings among lesser lights for too long.

From early in the day, all around Wembley was a sea of Sheffield blue and that wave crashed into the ground and reverberated right up to and beyond the point when the Tigers took their prize.

When they walked out, they - like me - will have felt that this was only the beginning. A bonus stop off in the capital 'on their way back'. Sadly for them, that journey would take a wrong turn to some dark places that they're still trying, blindly, to fight their way through.

But for a couple of hours at least, four years ago, those 40,000 in Wembley had shone brightly on the biggest stage. And it was they who were the true heroes in blue and white.

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