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20 Years Ago Today 3/4/1993 "owls Fly Clear As Blades Are Blunted "

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One of my best ever days supporting Wednesday and it really should have been 10-1 !


This fantastic bit of sports journalism from the Independent is still up on the internet and put it into words far better than I ever could.

Football: FA Cup Semi-Final: Wednesday's class secures the prize: Owls fly clear as Blades are blunted on a day when the national stadium belonged to Sheffield

From NORMAN FOX at Wembley

Sheffield United. . . 1

Sheffield Wednesday. .2

(aet; score at 90 min 1-1)

THE match was equal to the day. Wembley will see Sheffield Wednesday three times this season and if yesterday's FA Cup semi-final was merely the appetizer, it served us with everything we could want plus an extra course, the exhilarating topping of Chris Waddle's skills and a late winning goal to bring about a hard-won victory for the more creative side. But it was the day itself that was memorable.

Was there anyone left in Sheffield? The whole city had taken wheels and journeyed down the motorway to London where there were not many fans of either club likely to join the argument against Wembley being offered anything less than real finals. This was as real as steel with a touch of a Buck House garden party thrown in.

If United, who had not played at Wembley since 1936, were feeling slightly self-conscious, Wednesday's team had no FA Cup winners amongst them, not even Waddle, one of those high- fliers who are beyond United's means. And Wembley is always a leveller: how Brian Gayle, the United captain, could vouch for that, his Wimbledon having beaten Liverpool in 1988, though without his help since he was dropped at the last minute. Yesterday, Wednesday's Chris Bart- Williams suffered the same awful fate, fit but excluded at the last moment from a game played against a background of amazing colour and rivalry that was intense yet neighbourly.

The key to the occasion had to be an ability to find composure amid the emotion of this unique day. Waddle might not have climbed the 39 Wembley steps to the Royal Box in his long career but his feel for the Wembley stage was priceless. A nervous opening minute for others was, for him, the start of just another match on the old stamping ground. John Pemberton made one of those typical early careless tackles on Mark Bright and from more than 20 yards Waddle nonchalantly dismissed the expectancy, concealed his intent and bent the free-kick spectacularly inside the near post.

This was Waddle explaining to a wider audience than Sheffield that he still had something special to offer. He may have offended England's present management but here he delighted anyone with appreciation for the good things in the game.

For 20 minutes United doggedly and not altogether unimpressively attempted to overcome their body blow and counter the player who was to be the star. Waddle kept coming at them down the right side, hunched, haunting and haughty. But slowly United gained territory.

United's own right-wing inspiration, Franz Carr, gradually raised a voice from his side of the pitch and Brian Deane began to find space between Carlton Palmer and Viv Anderson but not before Paul Warhurst had moved on to another beguiling pass from Waddle and clipped the crossbar with his shot. United's failure to clamp down on Waddle seemed a gamble always likely to be their undoing yet all the time Alan Cork and Deane were working diligently to turn the tide of the game. Deane headed Dane Whitehouse's cross a shade wide to give Wednesday their first serious scare, but soon Waddle was escaping again to drive a shot alarmingly close to their post.

Cork's enormous contribution to United's work was epitomised when he rose above everyone and forced Chris Woods to leap so high to his cross-goal header that he fell off balance on to his arm and for a while seemed in danger of succumbing to his injury. Patched up, he continued. Warhurst immediately swung the emphasis in favour of Wednesday when blasting a shot on to the join of bar and post. Yet United's stubbornness was always likely to bring some reward, and so it was just a minute from half-time.

Until then Carr's influence had been subdued by his refusal to cut inside, but when faced by three defenders, he dropped back and played an enterprising through pass to Cork who would have been offside had not Waddle dropped back himself. Cork ran on unhindered and slid in a shot. Waddle pursued it guiltily but he had nothing to feel guilty about.

So whatever first-half advantages Wednesday had achieved in most areas, the second brought a fresh beginning and United realised, belatedly, that they could not afford to give Waddle so much freedom. Not that they were thinking defensively.

Woods, who had not been overworked in the first half, now began to earn his keep. Wednesday ought to have been better placed than they were but allowed themselves to get entangled in the game's general deterioration. The intensity and concentration of the early stages gave way to carelessness and some pettiness, but thankfully it passed.

Warhurst had missed flying with England to Turkey but yesterday hoped Wembley would be his magic carpet. It was not to be and after an hour he had to give way to David Hirst, himself not entirely match fit. Things were beginning to swing in favour of the unfavoured United but the game began to slumber, the hype and adrenalin losing its effect.

Hirst was clearly not as sharp as he should have been, twice spurning inviting chances. Indeed, Wednesday should comfortably have avoided extra time but in spite of some glorious long passes from Waddle they failed to sidestep the United defence. John Harkes continually pressed forward and John Sheridan forced Alan Kelly into an important deflection. Extra time became inevitable and in many ways not unwanted on this absorbing afternoon.

If Woods had always been a commanding figure in the Wednesday goal, Kelly, for United, was more one of those Cup-tie heroes for a day. Extra time saw him thrust out arms and legs and make half a dozen super saves; the best of them when Hirst seemed to have the upper hand from Nigel Worthington's cross. Kelly's accurate positioning rather than his agility kept United in the hunt but it was all becoming a trial of endurance needing one final push. It came deep in extra time and with the simplest of goals. Harkes dropped a corner plumb in the centre of the goalmouth and Bright, almost unopposed, headed in. A lot of finals have had less dramatic endings. Sheffield's own version was both dramatic and warmly entertaining.

Sheffield United: A Kelly; K Gage, D Whitehouse, J Gannon, B Gayle, J Pemberton, F Carr, M Ward (A Littlejohn, 96 min), A Cork, B Deane, G Hodges (J Hoyland, 90 min). Manager: D Bassett.

Sheffield Wednesday: C Woods; R Nilsson, N Worthington, C Palmer, J Harkes, V Anderson, D Wilson, C Waddle, P Warhurst (D Hirst, 61 min), M Bright, J Sheridan (G Hyde, 110 min). Manager: T Francis.

Referee: K Morton (Suffolk).

Goals: Waddle 0-1 (1 min); Cork 1-1 (44 min), Bright 1-2 (107 min).









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Remember seeing Graham Kelly, the then FA chairman outside Wembley after the game.

After the battle we had to have the game played at Wembley (usual bias towards Arsenal v Spurs), we said "Bet you're glad you gave us Wembley now Graham"

He looked suitably embarrassed

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Another match report




Football Commentary / FA Cup Semi-Final: Wandering Waddle becomes a wonder of the modern world: Kelly's heroics are not enough as Sheffield Wednesday parade a passing majesty to ensure their second cup final at Wembley this season


THE best player in the country may never play for England again, but he will be back at Wembley twice in the next six weeks, and we should savour his skills while we may.


The phrase 'different class' is one of the most overworked in football, but it was never more appropriate than in the case of Chris Waddle in the first of the local derbies to determine the FA Cup finalists.


Waddle, more than anyone, gave Sheffield Wednesday a dominance over United which made a nonsense of the need for extra time on Saturday, and the 2-1 result it produced.


At 32 the winger-turned-playmaker accepts that his international days are probably over, and leaves it to others to bemoan his continuing absence from an England squad crying out for players of such creative ability.


The man himself is content to give a knowing grin, which speaks volumes, whenever Graham Taylor's name crops up, and to contemplate two Wembley finals in little more than a month, in the Coca-Cola and FA Cups.


Others are less reticent on the case for Waddle adding to his 62 caps. Trevor Francis, the Wednesday manager, knows as much as anyone about international forward play, and says his recruit from Marseille is performing as well as ever - certainly better than when he last appeared for England, 18 months ago.


United's Glyn Hodges, an international winger in his own right, with Wales, acknowledged that Waddle's influence was decisive, his meandering elusiveness making him impossible to mark. Like another Francophile of a bygone age, they sought him here and they sought him there. To no avail.


As if to underline the perversity of his omission from Taylor's World Cup squad, Waddle embellished a sparkling performance with a free- kick reminiscent of Gazza's gem against Arsenal two years ago.


Similar goals, same effect. Both came early, lifting one side and deflating the other. United, always the outsiders, found themselves chasing the game after just 62 seconds. Even 'Harry' Bassett was dumbstruck.


Waddle's missile was as special as the atmosphere created by two vibrant sets of supporters, who were boisterous without ever descending into boorishness. Passionate? Most definitely. Noisy? To an exhilarating degree. Aggressive? Never.


The red and blue balloons they had brought by the thousand were still popping when Waddle exploded his 30-yarder past Alan Kelly's despairing left hand. Balloons underfoot? It was like playing on that unlamented Kenilworth carpet. Wembley will ban them, of course. Can't have people enjoying themselves, can we?


'One Chrissie Waddle, there's only one Chrissie Waddle' chorused the blue-clad legions. Unfortunately so. Mind you, throughout a one-sided first half there seemed to be half a dozen. The most mesmeric shuffler since Stan was The Man popped up all over the place - right, left and centre, but usually deep, from where his penetrative passes gave United more perforations than one of Tetleys finest.


Excused the defensive duties with which England burdened him, Waddle was free to float in midfield, where he seized upon every scrap of loose possession and used it to telling effect. Inexplicably, United opted not to mark him man for man, but instead left it to the closest player to pick him up. Whoops. Nobody was ever quite close enough.


The extent of this tactical faux pas is revealed in a look at the first-half chances. His free-kick apart, we had Waddle through to John Sheridan. Shot saved. Waddle through to Paul Warhurst. Shot hits crossbar. Waddle goes close from 25 yards. Waddle shot saved. Thirty-six minutes had elapsed before United were able to get near enough to tackle him for the first time.

Wednesday were edgy. Too many opportunities were coming to naught. When Warhurst drove firmly against the bar a second time, Francis glanced across at the United bench and lipread someone saying: 'We're going to win today.' Superstitious nonsense, of course, but it hardly seemed that way when, within a minute, Chris Woods was picking the ball out of his net.

Ironic that the Blades should be sharpened by Alan Cork, who had grown a 'lucky' beard and resolved not to shave until the Cup run was over. As good as his word, the Godfather of the Wimbledon 'Crazy Gang' left Wembley shorn.


Cork has also come clean about his age - he is 34. Thin of thatch and grey of bristle, he looked like a cross between Kenny Rogers and Max Wall, but that canny old brain remains as shrewd as ever, and he was one of the few United players to make a favourable impression. The goal was fitting reward, although it was as scruffy as his whiskers - a mishit shot bobbling in, with Waddle desperately close to hooking it clear. There is never a bad moment to score, but a minute before half-time was not ideal. The interval prevented United from working up a momentum, and in the second half it was much as before.


The loss of Warhurst, who aggravated his groin injury in the execution of a shot, was no great inconvenience to Wednesday, who might have preferred David Hirst anyway, and the longer it went, the more unbalanced play became.


Warhurst apart, Hirst, Roland Nilsson, Sheridan and Mark Bright (twice) all had good chances to settle it within the 90 minutes, but Kelly was in heroic form to take the tie into extra time.


By now, the chasing game had taken heavy toll on United's stamina, and in the additional period the goalkeeper seemed to be playing Wednesday on his own. He came up with a stunning save to deny Hirst from four yards, then a miraculous one-handed reach at Bright's expense.


It could not last. United had 'gone' in the legs, and Kelly was beaten twice, albeit from offside positions, before Bright finally did justice to Wednesday's superiority by heading in a John Harkes corner from six yards.


Amid all the talk of Waddle, Warhurst and Hirst, it should not be overlooked that Bright, with 18 goals this season, has been something of a catalyst. The perfect foil. As Ian Wright will testify, Bright's partners profit greatly from his unselfish assistance.


The last blast from Kelvin Morton produced the usual contrasting scenes. The courageous Kelly and Brian Gayle, who had missed the Cup final in his Wimbledon days, both sank to their knees in tears while Wednesday capered as if the old pot was already theirs. Francis, in particular, could be accused of tempting providence by scaling the famous steps to embrace his family.

The final, against north London's finest, will be tougher, but Wednesday's attractive passing game will grace the occasion, and where there's a Waddle, there's a way.


Goals: Waddle (2) 1-0; Cork (44) 1-1; Bright (107) 2-1.


Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Nilsson, Worthington, Palmer, Harkes, Anderson, Wilson, Waddle, Warhurst (Hirst, 61), Bright, Sheridan (Hyde, 110).


Sheffield United: Kelly; Gage, Whitehouse, Gannon, Gayle, Pemberton, Carr, Ward (Littlejohn, 96), Cork, Deane, Hodges (Hoyland, 90).


Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).




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Brian Deane :

"Wembley was an overrated experience for me. We got hammered, in all honesty. I'd like to say I enjoyed the day, but I didn't. We didn't get a look-in."


Edited by DJMortimer
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