Carrying Mark Bright on TV, a Chris Waddle masterclass and the best weekend ever – Nick Matthew’s Sheffield Wednesday story

Sheffield has a proud sporting history over the years, and Nick Matthew OBE – with his three World Squash Championship gold medals – is very much a part of that history. While the former world number one has travelled the globe and been honoured by the Queen, his favourite trip to any capital city was one involving Sheffield Wednesday.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 11:02 am
Nick Matthew OBE is a big Sheffield Wednesday supporter. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

In the latest edition of The Star’s look at the Owls’ list of famous fans, we got in touch with ‘The Wolf’ to talk about his Wednesday upbringing and his favourite moments, including the time where he carried a former Owl through an episode of ‘Question of Sport’…

But where did it all begin?

“Neither of my parents are from Sheffield, they met here at university,” he told The Star. “My mum is from Leeds with a background as a Leeds United fan, and my dad is from Daventry so supported Coventry City. When he was a student here he just started going to watch Wednesday – I’m not sure why he chose us over United, but he 100% made the right choice!

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“I don’t remember how old I was when I went to my first game, but one of my first was when we lost 5-1 at home to Liverpool after they’d just won the league. They had John Barnes and they hammered us.

“There was another where we lost 3-0 and got relegated on goal difference. I remember being all upset, and I was about nine - so those were my two first memories of Wednesday and neither of which were particularly great! It didn’t put me off, and it set me up for years of misery to follow!”

It’s not been all bad, though. And there’s one particular trip to the capital that stuck out for the 40-year-old squash ace, who managed to combine his two loves on one Wembley weekend.

He explained, “At Easter as a squash player, we always used to go to Wembley for the British Open. It’s the like Wimbledon of squash, and as a kid it was like your homage to go and watch the best squash players like Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan. It wasn’t on TV like it is now.

“Randomly, one year it happened on the same weekend that we won the Rumbelows Cup. So on the Saturday I went to the squash, then on the Sunday we went to the football. The squash was literally in the conference centre across the road, and I think that was probably my favourite weekend of all time!

“I was in the car park and Carlton Palmer was juggling the trophy singing the famous marijuana song. I was too young to know the words, but I remember singing along anyway.”

And it was at Wembley – on a different occasion – where a young Matthew witnessed what he calls ‘the best goal I’ve ever seen’, courtesy of a certain Chris Waddle – a star who the Sheffielder named as his favourite Owl of all time.

It’s Wednesday v United at Wembley Stadium in 1993, and Mark Bright has just won a free kick quite a way outside of the Blades’ box…

“The winner from Bright in the United semifinal was great,” Matthew remembers. “Because of the pure elation and relief. We’d been the better team and I’ve no idea how we didn’t win in the 90 minutes, but they were really resolute.

“But the first goal… We’d barely taken our seat, and then Waddle scored that freekick. For me, that’s probably the best goal I’ve ever seen, especially given the occasion. That was really amazing.”

As a squash superstar, Matthew conquered the world on more than one occasion and pitted himself against some of the best players the game has ever seen, but was there ever a chance to see him in blue and white stripes rather than with a squash racquet?

“I was always sporty, so I think I was always destined to do something in sport,” he said. “I went to some Sheffield Boys trials, and my dad was a PE teacher. The fact I ended up in squash was quite random – when I went to the Sheffield Boys trials I think I was more there to babysit one of the better players who was a bit shy!

“I was decent, a bit of a box-to-box player, but I was never going to make it in football. Squash actually suited me because of the selfishness of it – you don’t have to worry about teammates and you live or die by your own decisions. I liked that responsibility.”

And it was his own decisions that saw him muster the courage to have a lengthy chat with one of his old Owls heroes after he impressed alongside him in Phil Tufnell’s team on the BBC.

Matthew was on fire in studio, reeling off answers left right and centre, so much so that when he got one wrong Matt Dawson said, “So he is human!”

He recalls, “I was on Question of Sport and Mark Bright was on my team, so that was a highlight for me! I did tell him before that I was at the 1993 semi when he scored that header.

“I chatted to him more after the show though, because I’d done really well for our team and he didn’t answer a single question - so I think I positioned myself well to be a bit of a fanboy because I’d carried him for the last hour.”

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