SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Rivals united over way to tackle final

Winning captain: Lee Bullen endorses Danny Wilson's build-up
Winning captain: Lee Bullen endorses Danny Wilson's build-up

SHEFFIELD United have made an understandable decision in opting not to visit Wembley before the day of their play-off final, says former Wednesday captain Lee Bullen.

He feels that a no-frills policy did the Owls no harm before they beat Hartlepool in the 2005 final at the Millennium Stadium.

The Owls travelled to Cardiff on the day before the game, as they would for any long-distance away match.

“Paul Sturrock wanted to keep things as simple as possible,” recalls Bullen. “If you’re playing Huddersfield or Charlton away, you don’t go there beforehand.

“We wore tracks suits - Paul didn’t like the idea of formal suits. He felt it wasn’t right.

“I think Danny Wilson has done the right thing: he’s given the option to the players about what they want to do.

“Who’s to say what’s right or wrong in the build-up to a game like this? If you win, then great. If you lose, then people might question things.”

Some eyebrows were raised when Sturrock organised a canoeing session at Rother Valley Country Park. But players loved the break from routine.

“Between the semi-finals and the final is a long time; we did one or two things to take our minds off it,” says Bullen.

Another unorthodox touch came just before a decisive clash at Hull in the penultimate league game. The players were taken for a jog in the countryside at Bradfield, and then invited for a bite to eat and a drink in a social get-together at the training ground.

“That was a little quirk,” said Bullen, “but mostly Paul and his staff wanted to keep things as normal as possible.

“Don’t get me wrong: on the day, a final is a totally different occcasion, and it was great because we won.”

Bullen feels that Saturday’s final is hard to call: “I think United cleared a big hurdle in the semi-final. A lot of people thought they would be deflated, having just missed out on automatic promotion, lost their top scorer and not won any of their last three games.

“They answered a few critics. It wasn’t great football against Stevenage but they were excellent, very professional, and I think they will have a taken a big lift from that. The final is an absolute coin toss,”