A Dave Allen rule and beers in Ibiza: how Sheffield Wednesday built the spirit of 2005

It would be an understatement to say that former Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dave Allen had something of a rocky relationship with the club’s supporters.

By Alex Miller
Friday, 29th May 2020, 12:00 pm

Few would argue that the controversial figure got many things wrong at the club. The less said on those, perhaps, the better.

Other matters were handled with more nous, however, not least a ruling he placed front and centre of player contracts that those there at the time regarded as a big factor in the team spirit that saw them through a testing 2004/05 season that ended in promotion some 15 years ago today.

“One thing that Dave Allen had put into our contracts was that we had to live within 15 miles of Sheffield,” said Lee Bullen, Wednesday captain that season.

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“It meant every time you went out for a coffee or whatever, you’d bump into one of the lads.

“If we were out with wives or girlfriends or whatever, they’d be there. A night out after a win, you’d always see seven or eight of us together. That built a bond between us and that pulled us through some of the tough times and we earned what we had by the end.

“We were a set of waifs and strays that had been up there or been down.”

A season that ended with playoff glory with Paul Sturrock had started under former Owls keeper Chris Turner’s moulding of that squad of waifs and strays before his sacking nine games into the season.

Steven MacLean was among the scorers in Sheffield Wednesday 4-2 extra time win over Hartlepool in the League One playoff final 15 years ago today.

In what players present have described as a masterstroke, the squad were taken to Ibiza for a pre-season get together. Training was secondary on the priority list to building team spirit in a squad that had been built from all quarters on a shoestring budget.

One player chuckled as he described the trip as a ‘drinking tour’ and to this day all seem sworn to secrecy as to the tales of went on. What goes on tour, on this occasion, would appear to stay on tour.

Turner told The Star: “Money was tight and the guys over there offered a tournament with ourselves, a local team, Watford and Preston. It was free of charge – a no brainer.

“We lost in the final on penalties but that was immaterial. It was a great opportunity for the lads that didn’t know each other to get together, have some bonding and build some team spirit.

Sheffield Wednesday celebrate promotion to the Championship in 2005.

“We had a great pre-season that year. It was normal back at that time to do that sort of thing and get everything going, that’s what you did.

“When you’re bringing all these different players into a club they don’t know each other, you need to know their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses. It was really important.”

Owls striker Lee Peacock was one of those players brought in with a point to prove after a largely unsuccessful time at Bristol City. He said: “Normally there are different cliques in dressing rooms but we were all in it together.

“The most successful teams I’ve been at in my career are the ones who have been united.

“We weren’t all blessed with bags of talent but we worked really hard for each other to grind out results. We had a good mix. There were some lads who could affect games and do something out of the ordinary and we had some good, honest pros.”

It’s a picture also painted by midfielder Craig Rocastle, a star of the final who was added to the squad by Sturrock later and spoke to The Star from his home in Kansas.

Another one with scores to settle after leaving Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, Rocastle described the changing room as the ‘perfect combination’ of players on their way onto greater things and those who had suffered setbacks.

“We spent a lot of time at each other's houses, we were going round to everyone's place for dinner,” he said. “Peaky [Peacock] was one of them, I remember going round to Bully's a few times. Because I was by myself I think I kept getting invites, there was a lot of gatherings.

“That was probably the best changing room I’ve been a part of. You had guys that had been released from big, big clubs, Bully [Bullen] who was a great leader at the end of his career. It was one of those teams where everybody had a point to prove.”

Those points were proven emphatically thanks to that dramatic 4-2 win in extra time over a Hartlepool punch drunk from attack after attack by a determined Wednesday side.

And while there were fine individual talents, it is the seeds sown in Ibiza and by the atmosphere within the club that saw the side through.

“We just had characters,” Bullen said. “Paul [Heckingbottom] had played a higher level and was the sort of bloke that you could never tell if he was going through a hard time, he was there for everybody.

“You had Whelo [Glenn Whelan] and Chris Brunt who went on to deservedly have great careers and they were great talents with so much energy.

“Lee Peacock who had all these tattoos and bizarre hairstyles and a bizarre dress sense. Inside he was quite a nervous character and at times found it tough. He played a massive part in that changing room.

“David Lucas was brilliant in the changing room, Jon-Paul McGovern, Graeme Lee, Matty Hamshaw. Big, big personalities. It was second to none.

“It got us through some tough times, some tight times at Wednesday. There were a lot of downs in that season and our togetherness pulled us through.”


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