After nearly a year and a half of being absent, on December 22nd I made my way through the Hillsborough turnstile with my dad and grandad in front, my South African girlfriend behind and my ticket in hand as I sought a reminder of what Sheffield Wednesday was about.
Since leaving England I’ve been restricted to listening to Wednesday via WednesdayPlayer and watching the highlights days after games have come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, English football is huge in South Africa… except if you’re outside of the Premier League.
I’ve attended game after game in Cape Town where crowds hit a high of five or six thousand, where there are instruments instead of voices and where there’s no real passion to speak of.
I attended the Soweto Derby, when Orlando Pirates took on Kaizer Chiefs in one of world football’s genuinely huge games. 90,000 people crammed into Soccer City to watch the two South African giants and yes, I felt it, I felt the passion and the tension. However, it wasn’t home…
Football does that to you. It ignites a feeling within you that, even though it can be repressed for long periods, never seems to disappear. A feeling that will remain with you until you bugger off out of this world.
At Hillsborough that day there were three generations of Crann, three generations of Wednesday supporters that, unfortunately, have all known the good times. Granted, the good times in my life are slightly shitter than those that my grandad remembers, though they’re certainly better than things are now.
Over 20,000 others turned up with us to watch the Owls take on Charlton, and as I heard that beat, the opening bars of Hi Ho Silver Lining, a broad grin no doubt stretched across my slightly-more-tanned-than–the-rest face.
As the game went on my smile didn’t disappear. A fine performance from the boys, some great banter with the Charlton fans and a 2-0 victory was more than enough for me, also, my Liverpool supporting South African girlfriend also seemed to be moved by it. That says a lot about Wednesdayites if you ask me.
The game before Charlton we’d beaten Barnsley 1-0, giving Dave Jones a bit of respite. Since then we’ve lost only one league game in six and Jones’ job looks to be deservedly safe… for now.
We’re 20th and four points off the relegation zone, however we’re not clear of trouble by any stretch of the imagination. A couple of bad results and we’re back in the mire, and I’m not too sure that Milan will be as forgiving second time around.
Nonetheless, having seen the boys live again I feel like my spirit has been rejuvenated, and I feel close to club once more. We’ve got a long season ahead of us.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, for me, being back at Hillsborough meant more than any game I had listened to, or watched, since being gone.