Misguided passion

Notts County v Sheffield 'Lee Williamson celebrates after making itb five at Meadow lane
Notts County v Sheffield 'Lee Williamson celebrates after making itb five at Meadow lane

Alan Biggs at Large

As so sadly with Gary Speed and now with Fabrice Muamba, the football family always pulls together in times of tragedy and trauma.

Finer feelings surface, the game retreats to its proper place in life, grievances are forgotten and commonsense prevails.

It is in that spirit that I feel Danny Wilson stands to achieve something far more profound than winning promotion for Sheffield United.

He can knock some sense into many of those who follow football. And not just those misguided individuals who thronged the Bramall Lane car park to shout for Wilson’s removal on his first day in office.

Okay, it’s an emotional game. Filled with passion, we wouldn’t want it any other way. As with any good pantomime, there are heroes and there are villains.

But why on earth should somebody be the baddie just because he represented a rival club at some stage in the past? Remember the respect for Speed, for instance, shared by both sides of the city.

Last week, both here and in a national newspaper, I floated the very real and logical possibility of Gary Megson becoming a runner for the Wolves job.

There was an attempt to strangle it at birth. Why? Was it because Wolves fans didn’t rate Megson as a manager? Because they didn’t like his style of football?

No and no. It was purely because he once managed West Midlands neighbours West Bromwich. Never mind the fact that he won Albion two promotions to the Premiership. No matter that he kept Bolton in the top flight and left Sheffield Wednesday with his head held high. Or even that he was - and is - genuinely prepared to run the risk of bossing Wolves only until the end of the season.

The bottom line was that he was seen as a Baggie. He’s not, of course, as any Owl will tell you.

“I’d rather have my pub team manager in charge,” was one of the responses I got on Twitter last week.

How can football boards make sensible decisions - and heaven knows, they find it difficult enough - when such archaic attitudes persist and prevail?

Granted, you can understand Aston Villa fans not being happy with their ex-Birmingham boss Alex McLeish right now - but only because of poor form rather than the tribalism that has undermined him from the start.

So I applaud Kevin McCabe for his courage in appointing a former Sheffield Wednesday player and manager last summer (AND those protestors who have had the good grace to admit they were wrong). And I hope the outcome also confirms McCabe’s wisdom.

Wilson has handled the job and all its many challenges masterfully to this point. As for his chairman, it was the finger he pointed beyond the car park demonstrators that surely signposted the right example for the future.

There - in all its glorious irony - stood the statue of Derek Dooley, a great man who united the fans of an intensely partisan city. Dooley would hope, I am sure, that many more are allowed the latitude to follow in his path.


Ron Atkinson once confided in a private moment that he was having to clamp down on John Sheridan and that it was “good to have a bit of anger around the club.”

Anger? Well, even Big Ron was unprepared for Paolo Di Canio. He simply referred to the Italian as “the Volcano.”

So, will Di Canio’s Swindon erupt and bury Chesterfield on Sunday? Or will the normally unflappable “Shez” play it cool to relive his part in Wembley folklore?

It’s the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy final and there shouldn’t be more than a lick of the sponsor’s product between the sides, one trying to blue-brush clear of relegation in League One and the streaking red at the top of the Second.

But when it comes to the managers it’s black and white. . . or is it?

What Di Canio and Sheridan have in common - besides being two of Hillsborough’s all-time greats - is that neither looked remotely cut out for management.

Sheridan came across as a bit of a naughty schoolboy. Innocent in the face, unless you caught that barely discernible twinkle in the eye, and mischievous underneath. He was very much one of the lads during the heady era of Waddle, Hirst and company.

As for Di Canio, had anyone dared predict during his tempestuous time with the Owls that he would manage one day, I’d have certified him. The man seemed unable to control himself let alone anyone else.

An infamous shove to a tumbling referee, explosive outbursts in training. . . need I say more. But it seems the obsessive and fanatical traits that characterised Di Canio as a player are proving his great strength as a manager - for now, at least.

Expect a touchline tantrum or two on Sunday. Don’t expect too much emotion from the measured Mancunian Shez who so matter-of-factly discussed with me his 1991 League Cup winning goal in a phone call the following day.

But hopefully their teams will put on a show to fill them with pride. . . and Sheridan’s Chesterfield will emerge with the trophy!


A warm welcome today to my new Telegraph colleague Lee Bullen. There have been many better players in this city, but none in my experience has earned more respect for example and leadership. So fans of Sheffield Wednesday - and yes, United, too - would do well to heed his wise words today on a promotion duel that has led to hot-headed bravado from fans on both sides of town.

What’s wrong with a bit of respect for each other along with the banter? After all, nearly everyone agrees it’s best for everyone if BOTH go up.


He’s won two promotions from League Two. . . he built the first Scunthorpe side that reached the Championship. . . and he’s managed at every level. Is there anyone better qualified for the Rotherham job than ex-Owls boss Brian Laws? If there is, chairman Tony Stewart might like to hear from him. . .