AS A famous 124-year-old footballing rivalry prepares to resume after a hiatus of more than five years, the current crop of Sheffield Wednesday and United players have been urged to create their own history.
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Sunday will bring the 128th instalment of a derby that has had a little bit of everything. In terms of the Steel City showdown’s national profile, little will beat the 1993 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, but ask supporters of either blue or red persuasion for their own personal favourite memory and a multitude of answers is likely to follow.
Chris Wilder, as a lifelong Blade whose earliest memories of the derby stretch back to the 1979-80 season that included his club being on the end of the famous ‘Boxing Day massacre’ at Hillsborough, admits his own experiences are something of a “mixed bag”.
But, ahead of going head-to-head with Owls counterpart Carlos Carvalhal for bragging rights that will last at least until the return in January, the 50-year-old believes the past will be irrelevant come 1.15pm on Sunday.
“Right through the week, Sheffield Wednesday supporters will have been talking about certain games where they have turned us over,” said Wilder.
“They are not going to be talking about games where they have got beat, and vice versa (with Blades supporters).
“But that is for the past. We are here – me, in my first Sheffield derby as manager of the football club, and a lot of the players in their first Sheffield derby.
“They will want to make their own history for the supporters and they certainly have an opportunity to do that.”
Unlike Wilder, Carvalhal has no personal experience of a derby that might not have the profile of others around the country, but which certainly matters on the streets of the Steel City.
What the Portuguese does possess, however, is intimate knowledge of coaching in the “crazy” derbies of Istanbul and Lisbon.
People always go on about London or Liverpool or Manchester as hotbeds of football, but Sheffield is no different,Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder
When in charge of Besiktas, Carvalhal would face Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in front of 60,000 crowds.
Sometimes, more than 2,000 fans would be waiting at the club’s training ground to follow their team in convoy. Similar levels of passion were evident when Carvalhal’s Sporting Lisbon took on Benfica in Portugal and he is eager to experience his first all-Sheffield affair.
“All derbies are special games,” said the Wednesday head coach. “Some of them can be very hard. Sporting-Benfica is something unbelievable, so is Besiktas v Galatasaray.
“We know what this game (tomorrow) means. We live in the city. I am a Sheffield Wednesday citizen at this moment.
“I have felt like I have lived here a long, long time. I have talked to people since the first day that I arrived. I know how important the derby is. I have been in a lot of derbies so I know what they are about.
“We are here to try and make our fans happy. Our fans deserve the maximum from us. What I can promise is that my players will give the maximum to try and win all the games.”
On the prospect of taking on the Blades, Carvalhal added: “I sleep very well. I was asleep at 10pm (on Thursday) and I woke up at 6.30am so I had a very good sleep. No problem.”
With the two Steel City clubs not having met since February, 2012, predictably Sky TV have chosen the fixture for live broadcast.
It means many more than the sold-out 33,000 crowd will be able to follow the action from Hillsborough and gain an insight into what Blades manager Wilder believes is a “hotbed of football”.
“People always go on about London or Liverpool or Manchester as hotbeds of football, but Sheffield is no different,” he said.
“There is so much talent that has come through in this city, but no one ever mentions it. Look at lads like Harry Maguire, Jamie Vardy, Kyle Walker and a lot of others who have gone on to play for England.
“It was the same when I was young. The ages groups below and above me both won the English Schools Cup, and right throughout my career I would either play with or against loads of good lads who had come through the Sheffield Schools’ set-up.
“This is a proper football city. Everyone talks about other places, but Sheffield has got a big history going way back, right to the oldest football club and oldest football ground.
“In that proper football city comes a derby that is eagerly anticipated and very well contested.”