The ‘shame’ that Steelers’ players must share

Rob Wilson says Steelers are not as passionate about the Panthers' 'derby'
Rob Wilson says Steelers are not as passionate about the Panthers' 'derby'

SHEFFIELD Steelers’ current crop of players will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.

They will be the team that ‘allowed’ Nottingham Panthers to win the League.

That is the fear of former Sheffield captain Rob Wilson, the one-time defenceman who has just won the Italian League with Ritten.

Wilson, who took the South Tyrol side from eighth place to the top, said: “It seems like today’s Steelers don’t possess the hatred of Nottingham that we did when I was there (spells between 1994-2000.)

“Nottingham haven’t won the League since God was a lad (1956) so to be in a Sheffield side when it happens is a disgrace.

“When I look at the League table, now it makes me sick to the pit of my stomach (Panthers are five points clear of third-place Sheffield, with two games in hand.)

“It seems to me that the relationship has got too cosy. That can’t be right” said Wilson.

“I remember my first day at Sheffield and could sense the hatred for Nottingham straight away. And when I left to go to Newcastle, I considered it my obligation to ensure we took points off Nottingham, just because of my Sheffield connection. Maybe that feeling is not as strong any more.”

Whether Wilson’s remarks were directed at the club’s first-year imports - or the longer stay players - is unclear. But nobody could level any such accusation at Sheffield coach Ryan Finnerty, who has a healthy dislike for Panthers.

Yet Nottingham are on a roll now - and it would take a massive collapse for them not to lift the title.

Corey Neilson’s team this season seems to be stronger defensively, and grittier all-round than previous sides.

In Matt Francis, Brandon Benedict and Jordan Fox, they have players of character who lead the rest.

Tonight, Panthers travel to second-place Belfast in the Challenge Cup. They will be hoping to put a marker down - as Belfast can still win the League, especially if they win back to back games against Nottingham on March 15 and 16.

Ironically, it could all go down to the last match of the season - when Belfast travel to Sheffield!