Sheffield Wednesday can be inspired by how Bradford City gate-crashed the play-offs to clinch promotion

On the up: Bradford City captain Eddie Youds holds the Endsleigh Insurance League trophy in celebration after victory over Notts County at Wembley.
On the up: Bradford City captain Eddie Youds holds the Endsleigh Insurance League trophy in celebration after victory over Notts County at Wembley.
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BRADFORD CITY in 1995-96, Crystal Palace in 2003-04 and Blackpool in 2009-10.

Each of the aforementioned clubs delivered football stories which would have aroused the interest of Hollywood scriptwriters during seasons that were magnificent, incredulous, exasperating and fluctuating in equal measure.

There are plenty of other examples of unlikely promotion campaigns which would have been laughed out of court at Christmas such as Cambridge United (1989-90), Torquay United (1990-91), Northampton Town (1999-00) and Dagenham and Redbridge (2009-10).

All also provide irrefutable evidence to current aspirants that when it comes to promotion matters, it is never too late.

Sheffield Wednesday supporters may just be tempted to read on at this point.

Should anyone have mentioned the ‘p’ word of promotion in mid-December after the Owls’ 2-1 loss at Swansea City, when the last rites to Jos Luhukay’s increasingly unsatisfactory reign were administered, you would have received a few quizzical looks.

Steve Bruce: Has led Owls to the cusp of a top-six place.

Steve Bruce: Has led Owls to the cusp of a top-six place.

Some might have ventured that it was time to send for the men in white coats following a grim December day when Wednesday dropped to 18th place in the second-tier table.

After that defeat, the Owls resided just five points above the relegation zone – with staying up justifiably being the primary concern as a forgettable 2018 slumped to new murky depths.

It is difficult to comprehend that just 16 matches later, Steve Bruce’s 10th-placed side are just two points outside of the top six, which perhaps shows the oscillating nature of Championship fortune better than anything else.

Where there was once apathy and a touch of despair, there is now renewed hope.

Should anyone have mentioned the ‘p’ word of promotion in mid-December after the Owls’ 2-1 loss at Swansea City, when the last rites to Jos Luhukay’s increasingly unsatisfactory reign were administered, you would have received a few quizzical looks.

Leon Wobschall

A spot of further inspiration can be provided by the events over the border in West Yorkshire at Valley Parade 23 years ago.

The title of football manager turned TV celebrity Chris Kamara’s autobiography is ‘Mr Unbelievable’ – paying homage to his famous catchphrase on Sky Sports’ popular Soccer Saturday programme.

That particular adjective could easily describe the Bantams’ head-turning transformation in that season when they hauled themselves from mid-table obscurity to promotion after six years in the third-tier wilderness.

Kamara had replaced Lennie Lawrence in November, 1995, and, after a quiet start, things really got going in late winter, again akin to the events at Hillsborough.

LATE SURGE: Former Crystal Palace boss Iain Dowie Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA.

LATE SURGE: Former Crystal Palace boss Iain Dowie Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA.

Mid-table in late February and ninth by mid-April, City maintained momentum after a strong return of nine wins in their final 14 matches of the regular season.

An unlikely play-off place was finally booked at Yorkshire rivals Hull City where Kamara’s side, backed by an away following of 5,000 fans, triumphed 3-2 in a game marred by crowd trouble at the old Boothferry Park.

The drama would continue in a play-off semi-final with Blackpool which has gone down in club folklore – City famously snatching victory from the jaws of defeat after turning around a 2-0 first leg defeat on a never-to-be-forgotten midweek night at Bloomfield Road.

It was, of course, the prelude to promotion in the Second Division play-off final as Bradford crowned their first appearance at Wembley in fitting fashion, 2-0 against Notts County.

Those with ’Pool affiliations will, no doubt, choose to gloss over those events and instead focus on their own fairytale season of 2009-10 when they achieved their Holy Grail of securing Premier League football.

Rollercoaster events by the seaside saw Ian Holloway’s side – in ninth place and six points off the Championship play-offs in mid-March – win six of their final eight games to pip Swansea to the final place in the end-of-season lottery.

That impetus enabled the Tangerines to see off Nottingham Forest and Cardiff to secure a place at the top-flight table for the first time in 39 years.

Yet should Wednesday – whose first appointment after the international break is a trip to Stoke City on Saturday – gatecrash the play-offs, it will bear the closest similarity to the events at Selhurst Park of ’93-94.

As was the case with the Owls back in mid-December, Palace were short on confidence, guidance and points as Christmas approached in 2003.

The manager who had started the season in Steve Kember had already been sacked and there was no upturn under caretaker-manager Kit Symons.

A sparse crowd of 12,259 watched Palace lose 3-1 at home to Crewe on December 9, 2004, a defeat which left them in the bottom three – after just five wins from their opening 22 matches.

Shortly afterwards, Iain Dowie was handed a position which seemed to be a poisoned chalice.

Ultimately, it was a season which ended in him being feted in South London and it was nothing to do with saving the club from relegation either.

A supreme act of escapology saw the soaraway Eagles wrack up 16 wins in 23 matches under Dowie to sneak into the top six – and ultimately end up being promoted via the play-offs after picking up just 73 points. Sometimes, strange things do happen at this time of the season.

Owls chief Bruce has certainly been around in the game long enough to appreciate that.