Alan Biggs at Large

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There has seldom been a season like it in these parts. If ever. But now for something. . . completely different? Well, let’s say truly unique. . .

Both sets of fans behind just one Sheffield team? Not this weekend, of course! But can the unlucky runners-up in the chase for second spot count on some support from an unexpected quarter in the dreaded play-offs?

What a fitting finale that would be for an absolutely fantastic season that has been a credit to both United and Wednesday (alphabetical order!) Telegraph columnists Brian Deane and Lee Bullen (whose turn it is today) have each put their colours aside to express the wish that both teams are in the Championship next season.

Now is the time for supporters of whichever club misses out to follow their lead. Not quite yet, of course. The final scene of a gripping drama will be acted out this weekend as a thrilling race goes to the wire, just as many of us thought.

It would be foolish after all that has gone before to rule out one last unexpected twist. This is the first time the Owls have been out in front after succeeding in a relentless pursuit of their rivals. As such, the pressure is on Wednesday to complete what many will now see as the formality of a home win over relegated Wycombe.

Will this affect the mentality of Dave Jones’ players, previously honed by what predecessor Gary Megson instinctively felt was a breakthrough victory in the Hillsborough derby? Personally, I doubt it. Coming off the fence for the first time means I’m expecting the Owls to do the necessary in front of a seething full house, just as the Blades will surely do the business at Exeter. But I also feel the real turning point wasn’t last weekend’s win at Brentford ahead of United being held by Stevenage.

It was the previous Saturday when, within 24 hours of the crushing event of Ched Evans being jailed, United dipped at MK Dons while Wednesday claimed a last-gasp winner over Carlisle. That, I feel, will prove to be the defining day.

But what follows is equally important. Not only that the edged-out team prevail in the play-offs (and you’d have to say it would be especially exacting for United after leading for so long) but that fans of the promoted side show some respect and goodwill, if not outright support.

It has only happened before when one has needed a favour off the other by way of beating a rival. This is different. But it’s not so unusual elsewhere. Merseysiders tend to stick together if only one of Liverpool and Everton is left in a competition - though whether it’ll happen in Saturday’s FA Cup final after the Reds beat the Blues in the semis will be a huge test of that camaraderie.

Sheffield can top even that with a rare show of unity. A bit like the World War 1 Christmas football match between front-line troops in 1914. However entrenched your position as an Owl or Blade, the race has fostered a certain mutual respect.

So is it really too silly or sentimental to hope that the fans will lay down their arms for a couple or three weeks?

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