They came, they saw, they conquered.
A decade ago, Sheffield Wednesday secured promotion to the Championship, beating Hartlepool United 4-2 after extra time in an enthralling Play-Off Final at the Millennium Stadium.
Midfielder Jon-Paul McGovern and striker Lee Peacock, two of the heroes of the Class of ‘05, explain the secrets behind their success.
Jon-Paul McGovern (JP): What we had in the dressing room was special. I’m not sure I’ve ever been at a club where the dressing room was as good as that. The boys worked really hard for each other and we would go out on a Saturday night and have a beer together.
Lee Peacock (LP): There were no cliques in that team. Normally there are different cliques in dressing rooms but we were all in it together. The most successful teams I’ve been at in my career are the ones who have been united.
We weren’t all blessed with bags of talent but we worked really hard for each other to grind out results. We had a good mix. There were some lads who could affect games and do something out of the ordinary and we had some good, honest pros.
For me, our player of the season was David Lucas. He kept us in so many games. He made some unbelievable saves.
What set us aside was the togetherness, work rate and team spirit which was installed from the manager down. We all wore the shirt with pride.
JP: When we trained, it was very serious and focused. Paul Sturrock worked us hard. Paul’s man management skills were great. He called me into his office in the run-up to the final and told me ‘we need you to be the best player on the pitch’. I left his office feeling 10 feet tall. I thought I was the only one who Paul had done that with but it turned out afterwards he had spoken to five of the other boys!
LP: You earned your days off with Paul. He wanted us to be the fittest side in the league.
I will never forget when he invited all of the squad up to his office the night before the Hull game. One or two of us felt a little bit worse for wear the next day but we won 2-1 to seal our play-off spot. That could have gone drastically wrong. A manager getting the players drunk before a game is probably a sackable offence nowadays but it worked for us. You could not do that now. Football has totally changed. The demands are higher now and it gets a little more professional every year.
JP: As good a job as Paul did, I think Chris Turner deserves a lot credit and respect for the players he brought in. Many of the guys in the team were his signings. Chris recruited guys who had been released at other clubs and had points to prove.
LP: When I look back on my career now, it all kind of flew by. It is only just starting to sink in that I was part of the Wednesday team who won at Cardiff.
It still gives me goosebumps thinking about the final. I remember when the team bus turned around the corner to go towards the stadium and seeing thousands of fans who had lined the streets to cheer us on.
JP: Before a game, I normally keep myself to myself and chill out on the team bus. But I looked outside of the window and it was just a sea of blue and white and thought ‘wow, look at that’. The fans made such a noise and that was when we realised the significance of the day. Their support was a massive thing.
LP: There is no place to hide when you play for Wednesday. I wish I could have been there a year or two earlier before I got my ankle injury. Wednesday fans possibly would have seen a more agile and athletic version of me.
I would like to think that any defender I played against that season never got the man of the match award because I worked hard off the ball and put them under pressure.
I gave it my all against Hartlepool but was thinking in the back of my mind that we still had Macca [Steve MacLean] to come on. Macca was so clinical all season.
When he and Drew Talbot came on, I knew they would cause Hartlepool problems and that was exactly what happened.
JP: Even when Hartlepool went 2-1 up, I still believed we were going to win. I fancied us from start to finish. We didn’t panic at any stage.
That was the best season of my career and it was great to be part of that history. I played every game, scored in the first leg of the play-off semi-final tie with Brentford and winning at Cardiff will stay with me forever.
I still get people who come up to me and go ‘you gave us the best day of our life’. It was a privilege to play for Wednesday and they will always have a special place in my heart.
I left Livingston in June 2004 where I wasn’t enjoying my football and I went to Wednesday and got a new lease of a life. I got off to a rocky start, having played for the other side of the city, but I loved playing in front of the big crowds and the fans took me to their hearts.