Blackburn Rovers v Sheffield Wednesday: Michael Smith on his remarkable end-of-season history and a potential allegiance-switching final day for some of his family

MICHAEL SMITH struggles to recall the last time he was involved in a season where everything was not on the line towards its conclusion.

It’s been ‘interesting’ as the Sheffield Wednesday striker puts it, with a fair degree of understatement and this year is no exception. Thoughts of sun, sea and sand are far, far away.

While many of his fellow footballers are metaphorically on the beach in the Balearic Islands or envisaging being somewhere similarly hot, Smith and his Owls team-mates are thinking about Blackburn. The temperatures towards the bottom of the Championship are sizzling, that said.

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For the record, Smith - involved in that finish for the ages at Wednesday in the 2022-23 campaign which few will ever forget against Peterborough and then Barnsley - has been involved in seven successive seasons where he has been fighting for something at Yorkshire clubs.

Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is challenged by Stoke City's Michael Rose in last weekend's game at Hillsborough. Picture: Steve Ellis.Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is challenged by Stoke City's Michael Rose in last weekend's game at Hillsborough. Picture: Steve Ellis.
Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is challenged by Stoke City's Michael Rose in last weekend's game at Hillsborough. Picture: Steve Ellis.

Automatic promotion, going up via the play-offs or to stay up.

Before he headed permanently to the White Rose, it was a similar script at Portsmouth and Swindon.

While in the colours of the latter, he struck twice in a crazy play-off semi-final second leg versus Sheffield United which ended 5-5 with the Robins reaching Wembley at the end of 2014-15.

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The former Rotherham United striker, promoted on three occasions in his time with the Millers, with a brace of relegations also on his CV before joining Wednesday in the summer of 2022, said: “I was talking about this the other day, actually.

"In my first year at Rotherham, it was the play-offs and the next year it was relegation. The next year was promotion and the next year was relegation and then I’ve had a promotion and another promotion (at Wednesday) and now it’s a relegation scrap.

"Before that, I had a 93-day loan at Portsmouth that finished before they went into the play-offs (in 2015-16) and joined and the year later, they won promotion to the League One. It’s been quite a dramatic few years. It’s been interesting."

For Smith, avoiding relegation this season would be particularly sweet.

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His last two campaigns at this level have ended in demotions at Rotherham.

Both Rotherham and Wednesday went down on a shattering final day in 2020-21. They could both go together again this season, if not on the same day.

The forward was part of a Millers side who suffered the cruellest of relegations at Cardiff. Leading 1-0 and safe, a fluky 88th-minute leveller sent them down.

Smith is understandably driven not to experience anything like that pain again.

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He added: "That was a tough one to take and it was a horrible bus journey home.

"It was such a bizarre season anyway, with it being a Covid season and we ended up having to play four games in eight games near the end of the season.

"It was tough, especially given the lad who scored for Cardiff ended up shanking it into the bottom corner and said he meant it to go in the other corner. That was hard to take. Hopefully, I can put that right.

"If we manage to stay up, I’d quite like it done before the last game of the season. But if we did stay up at Sunderland (on the last day), it would just epitomise this football club and how dramatic it’s been, especially since I have been here with the play-offs and winning at Wembley in the last minute."

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Should things go down to the final day on Wearside, then some of Smith’s loved ones might have to switch sides for a few hours.

For his part, Wallsend-born Smith himself is an avid Newcastle United fan, but the allegiances of some family members are with the Rokerites.

With Sunderland having little to play for and it potentially all being on the line for the Owls on May 4, that may change for a few hours.

Smith added: "I think I’ve managed to convert my missus. She is dying down on the Sunderland fan front. My mum and stepdad are massive Sunderland fans, but hopefully they can be blue and white on that matchday. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that…”

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Much in common with the two bitter north-east rivals, Wednesday’s fanbase is intense and unstinting and it is particularly admirable in times of strife.

The Owls will be backed by a huge 7,400 support at Blackburn on Sunday, the sort of numbers that garner respect on Tyneside and Wearside.

On experiencing that fervour himself as a fan, Smith said: “Usually when Newcastle play, I’ve always been playing. But I’ve heard the stories and all my mates go home and away and they have packed out away ends. It’s a lot like Wednesday fans, they follow their team up and down the country in numbers.

"They did it last season in League One and this season in a relegation scrap and I cannot thank them enough."