It’s been 17 years since Sheffield Wednesday’s relegation from the top flight. They were a fixture in the early Premier League era, reaching both cup finals in 1993, giving us the likes of Benito Carbone, Paolo Di Canio, Wim Jonk and Regi Blinker, but their final season was an unmitigated disaster. Carbone went on strike, Newcastle beat them 8-0 and they looked like they were going down from day one. Rubbing salt into the wound, Bradford stayed up on the final day and Leeds qualified for the Champions League. Crumbs.
Things didn’t get much better after relegation to the second tier. A period of financial instability ensued, culminating with relegation to League One in 2003, and they didn’t return to the Championship until 2005. Five years later, they went down again. Still, they managed to bounce back straight away and they’ve improved in every season since then, culminating in this season’s fourth-placed finish under Carlos Carvahal.
Does a Wembley date with Reading await the Owls, 24 years after those two defeats to Arsenal? Maybe! A 0-0 draw in the first leg of their play-off semi-final at Huddersfield Town has left them in a strong position to reach the final. Recent history favours them. They’ve already beaten Huddersfield 2-0 at Hillsborough in the league. They haven’t conceded a goal to David Wagner’s side this season. They only conceded 45 goals in 46 league matches. They only need a 1-0 win over their Yorkshire neighbours tonight.
But hang on a minute! Let’s not write off Huddersfield, who had the better of Sunday’s contest and who were in with a shout of automatic promotion before running out of steam in the run-in, winning one of their last five matches. Wagner’s done a fine job there and while they’ve not beaten Wednesday in eight matches, Huddersfield shouldn’t be underestimated. They did, after all, only finish behind Wednesday on goal difference. And this is the play-offs. Anything can happen.
Kick-off: 7.45pm BST.