Incessant support from the Wednesdayites failed to carry the day in the all-Yorkshire final as Leon Wobschall reports.
THE chant on the Metropolitan Line on the way back from Wembley into Central London was unmistakable and succinct late on Saturday evening.
“One-nil to the empty seats,” was the refrain from some lubricated gentlemen of East Yorkshire joyously basking in the glow of Hull City’s promotion back to the Premier League at the expense of the Sheffield Wednesday multitudes.
We have been here before, of sorts. It arrived on May 25, 2008 when Doncaster Rovers, whose supporters were comprehensively outnumbered by their Leeds United counterparts, had a ball following their sweet 1-0 victory in their League One all-Yorkshire play-off showpiece.
It was the same outcome on Saturday, with the Tigers being the beneficiaries this time around – all 26,000 of them, compared to the Owls’ mass pilgrimage of 41,000.
Like Leeds supporters on that fateful Spring day just over eight years ago, Wednesdayites came from many parts of the Broad Acres and showed their allegiance by draping their flags across their packed half of Wembley.
They came from Mexborough, Hoyland, Pocklington and Goole and plenty of other places besides. Chesterfield, Worksop and Cheltenham to name but three.
At the other end of the national stadium, swathes of uninhabited red seats could be seen amid the amber and black, making for a slightly incongruous sight.
They could not sell all their tickets, that much is true and they were reminded of that fact by Wednesdayites.
But it was they who claimed the biggest ticket in town – the £200m golden jackpot one stating entry to the Premier League.
By contrast, there was not a spare seat in the house in the Wednesday section and you suspect everyone was hoarse at the final whistle and had a tear in the eye as their heroes slumped to a painful defeat, just as they did on their previous visit to the old Wembley when they lost 2-1 to Arsenal in an FA Cup final replay on May 20, 1993 – just over 23 long years ago.
But how Wednesdayities did their bit in one of the most incessant supports ever to grace English football’s cathedral. But sometimes, that is not just enough.
In keeping with the Leeds theme of ’08, the Owls did not pass go on the pitch – and it was Hull, who possessed the monopoly and the Mayfair credentials.
The vim and vigour which had characterised Wednesday’s renaissance campaign under Carlos Carvalhal was missing, despite all that cajoling from those from one half of the Steel City.
The stand may have been bounced in inimitable Wednesdayite fashion, but there was no swagger and flow from those on the pitch bedecked in blue and white, who danced like a clumsy father at his daughter’s wedding.
Hull players, by contrast, had the strut, albeit after a staccato opening.
They were the ones who ultimately looked like they belonged.
It was Mo Diame who possessed the vibrant beat. A school of thought suggested before the game that if Diame is on his game, then Hull most certainly are – and so it proved.
The Senegal international’s sumptuous match-winning strike was fit to grace the most venerated occasion – and was a true magic Wembley moment harkening back to that unforgettable strike from Dean Windass at the same venue in ’08.
Back to that year again...
Perhaps in the final analysis, this was a game too far in the end for Wednesday.
But it is an enduring story and expect them to be back with the pride and defiance detectable among the searing disappointment prevalent among Owls fans at the final whistle.