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Safety in Distance

What’s wrong with supporting both your hometown teams? Make us proud, you blue and red and white striped champions in the making.

Sheffield wednesday boxing day massacre

Sheffield Wednesday in 1979.

From my home in York, at a distance of...

Me: Hey Google, navigate to Sheffield Wednesday Football Ground.

Google: I'm afraid I can't find that place.

Me: Hey Google, navigate to Hillsborough Stadium.

Google: I'm afraid I can't find that place.

Me: *types: navigate to Hillsborough Stadium*

Google: Well, why didn't you blooming well say that?! There's the usual
roadworks on Penistone Road but you'll be there in an hour and ten if
you set off now and it's...

... 56.8 miles.

I've a confession to make: last season I decided to become a fan of both Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and Sheffield United Football Club. I was born and raised in Sheffield, so why not support both the Owls and the Blades?

My mom and dad weren't into footie and so it was down to the older generation to influence my choice. My nannan was into the blue and white lizards (“No, it's wizards,” says my wife, who was born in the Caribbean) and my Granddad was a fan of the Blades, so logically it should have come down to who gave me more spending money, right? Not as it turned out.

My granddad gave me money every weekend, but it was my nannan who doted on me the most. She talked to me, hugged me and gave me chocolate biscuits, but most importantly she put her money where her mouth was. Which meant, in this case, that she went to football matches and, as it turned out, as soon as I was big enough I went with her.

A little kid, kitted out in scarf and bobble hat, on the Hillsborough Kop with his nannan, both of us shouting our hearts out. My nannan didn't swear, but she knew how to tell the ref exactly where he was going wrong and where to go with his wrongheadedness.

We used to stand right in the middle of the crowd, where the noise was the loudest, joyfully pushed up against those blue metal barriers. The crowd surged as ball after ball slammed into the opposing team's goal and we all went wild, week after week, season after season. We felt the ecstasy and a fair amount of agony too, but it's the winning that sticks in my mind.

Does anyone else remember Terry Curran in so much space that he was able to stand next to the post of the other team’s goal and then, as the whole of the opposition ran despairingly towards him, cheekily side-foot the ball into the net? Well we saw that, and more.

When nannan couldn't make it to the matches anymore because of her hips, I went with my uncle instead. At other times it was with kids from school, mates from work, or strangers wearing blue and white jerseys who I met on the way to the ground. It all worked for me as long as I got my fix. Come hard times, floodwater or monster trucks, we was there – and it was fab.

It was the Wednesday for me, from my formatives all the way up until last year when, out of the blue (and into the red?), I had a strange thought: why not double the fun and shout for both teams? So I did.

When Saturday (and, more recently, midweek) comes around, I give myself two chances to be happy. I follow the Wednesday match, but I keep a friendly eye on the United score. If either of them wins then listen closely with your ears cupped towards York, because if the wind’s blowing southward and it’s quiet enough, then maybe, just maybe you’ll hear me cheering at the top of my lungs.

Up the Sheffield lads! Play on until your legs drop off. Make all of us proud, you blue and red and white striped champions in the making.

Filed under: #Football

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