RAMBLE | Boxing Day Massacre

RAMBLE | Boxing Day Massacre

We continue our build up to this Sunday’s fixture against Sheffield United – the first Steel City Derby in five years – with a look back to one of Wednesday’s most famous victories: the Boxing Day Massacre.

Sean takes on the thirty-eight year old ramble duty.

My first experience of a derby game came nearly a year after the death of my Grandad, Bill.

He’d been a Wednesdayite since moving to Sheffield from Lincolnshire to live with his grandmother just after the first world war and had witnessed our two league championships in the late 20s and our last FA cup victory in 1935.

He’d also seen our fall from grace in the 70s and ‘treated’ me to my first season ticket in the year that we were very nearly relegated to the fourth tier.

For three seasons we went home and away together as I savoured the delights of Sincil Bank, Gigg Lane and Blundell Park.

However, after he’d passed away a procession of uncles and aunties (and the sadly now defunct number 53 bus) had been the only way, as a fourteen year old, that I could get to games.

The lead up to our boxing day clash with United was eagerly anticipated in our city partly because it was the first meeting in over a decade.

United had been relegated the previous season from the second tier and were hot favourites to bounce straight back driven on by their Argentinan superstar, Alex Sabella.

Going into the game we were top half of mid-table and they were top so a difficult game was expected.

My Mum and Nan had sorted me a lift out with my Auntie June.

She was an Auntie of the ‘70s variety – just a family friend. June was also a staunch Blade who had dated several of their players and was secretary of their supporters club at one point.

So come the day I jumped in a car to go from Norton Lees to Hillsborough with three Unitedites: June and her two teenage sons, Mark and David.

It was a relatively quiet trip to S6 and we parked up half way up Herries Road. It was a morning kick off for safety reasons and I had no sense of what was about to unfold.

As far as I can recall, and nearly 40 years have passed – along with serious amounts of whiskey – the first half was typical derby fare. No-one taking a second touch for fear of making a mistake. I think United had the better of the few chances but we went in one ahead at half-time.

Ian Mellor had given us the lead with a rasping shot from twenty-five yards, straight into the top corner.

The second was a bravura counter-attacking performance on our part.

United pushed on trying to secure an equaliser initially and then, as they fell further behind, simply a goal to get a foothold in the game.

And we hit them on the break again (Curran) and again (King) and again (Smith).

Jeff King makes it 3-0

As our fourth and final goal hit the back of the net I felt like I was close to heaven.

Over 13 years passed before I had that feeling again courtesy of a certain Chris Waddle at Wembley.

When I got back to the car I was still grinning like the proverbial cat from Cheshire. My auntie June said “you played well, Sean” and then there was silence for the journey home.

United fell apart after that game and we were promoted.

The return fixture at Bramall Lane saw Wednesday cement their position as promotion candidates. Terry Curran’s wonder-goal – one of twenty two as he finished top scorer – sealed a 1-1 draw in front of 45,000.

Jack Charlton’s men would lose just three times after Boxing Day, seeing Wednesday promoted in third place alongside Grimsby and Blackburn Rovers.

It would be more than a decade before United went above us in the league.

Highlights of the Boxing Day Massacre, featuring some exquisite BBC English from the 1970s are here:

Extended Match of the Day highlights of the April return fixture are here, time-stamped with Curran’s goal:



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