Owls showing signs of revival

SHEFFIELD Wednesday, one of several famous clubs in distress, looked quite sharp when losing 2-1 at Portman Road way back in October. Manager Terry Yorath was hanging on to his job by his fingernails while first-team coach Willie Donachie was trying to help mastermind the downfall of Town, writes Tony Garnett.

SHEFFIELD Wednesday, one of several famous clubs in distress, looked quite sharp when losing 2-1 at Portman Road way back in October. Manager Terry Yorath was hanging on to his job by his fingernails while first-team coach Willie Donachie was trying to help mastermind the downfall of Town, writes Tony Garnett.

Today the Owls, with former Hartlepool boss Chris Turner trying to save them from the drop into Division Two, are showing signs of a belated recovery.

They scored a 5-1 victory over Coventry City at Hillsborough and then came away from Leicester City with a 1-1 draw. They came close to a victory at the Walkers Stadium but South African goalkeeper Paul Evans let a back pass from Paul McLaren end in his own net. It was a costly clanger. Evans had won his place from long-serving Kevin Pressman, who joined the staff as an apprentice in 1985. Evans, once of Jomo Cosmos in his own country, impressed in a trial at the end of last season and was awarded a one-year contract.

There is a different look about the Wednesday defence. Dean Smith, the captain of Leyton Orient and formerly of Hereford United, joined Wednesday last month on a free transfer. He plays in central defence alongside Garry Monk, who is on loan from Southampton.

Ashley Westwood is right-back. He was a trainee at Manchester United, had a spell learning his trade under Dario Gradi at Crewe and joined Bradford City in 1998. Wednesday paid £150,000 in August 2000.

Brian Barry-Murphy, born in Cork, was signed from Preston this season to play at left-back.

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The Wednesday midfield can no longer boast household names like Chris Waddle. Now they have Michael Reddy, another Irishman, on loan from Sunderland adding speed and tenacity.

Jamaican international Darryl Powell joined Derby County from Portsmouth for £750,000 in 1995 and moved to Hillsborough in January.

Paul McLaren, who scored at both ends at Leicester last week, spent the first eight years of his career with Luton Town. Tony Crane, a tall 20-year-old midfielder, is being given a chance to establish himself.

Alan Quinn, the Irish left-winger from Cherry Orchard in Dublin, is a speedy 22-year-old.

Up front Lee Bradbury, on loan from Portsmouth, is resurrecting his career after suffering knee ligament damage in December 2001. He has had some big-money moves in his time, Manchester City paying £3 million in 1997 and Crystal Palace £1.5 million just over a year later. Bradbury and Shefki Kuqi are a powerful pair.

Jamaican international Danny Maddix, a man-marker who spent many successful seasons with QPR, is on the bench these days while 22-year-old Steve Haslam is a defender for the future. Lloyd Owusu, a former Brentford striker, is likely to be on the bench.

Always keen to keep the wage bill as low as possible, Wednesday have parted with 6ft 5ins Dutchman Gerald Sibon, who has joined Heerenveen. Leigh Bromby is on loan at Norwich, Michele Di Piedi, who stands 6ft 6ins, is with Bristol Rovers and Jon Beswetherick at Swindon.

It is sad that such a famous club as Wednesday are needing to run their affairs on a shoestring budget.

In the fifties players like Jackie Sewell and Derek Dooley were the stars at Hillsborough. Dooley broke his leg at Preston, gangrene set in which meant an amputation. His playing career was over but now he is chairman of Sheffield United.

In the sixties there was the betting bribery scandal, in a match against Ipswich Town, that led to prison sentences and bans for Tony Kay, David 'Bronco' Layne and Peter Swan.

In 1995 Wednesday parted company with the managerial duo of Trevor Francis and Mick Mills. There has been a downward spiral since then with a succession of managers the most recent being Danny Wilson, Paul Jewell, Peter Shreeves and Terry Yorath.

It's a tremendously important match for both clubs with a draw of little help to either. Wednesday are locked in a battle with Stoke City, Brighton and Grimsby Town to stay up. Ipswich must win if they hope to catch those currently in the top six.

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