It might be in a lower league than both sets of supporters would like, but when the Steel City derby explodes this lunchtime expect fire and brimstone. But who would win if the two greatest Xls were pitted against each other?
Sheffield United Greatest Xl v Sheffield Wednesday Greatest Xl: Who Wins?
It might be in a lower league than both sets of supporters would like, but when the Steel City derby explodes this lunchtime expect fire and brimstone. But who would win if the two greatest Xls of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday were pitted against each other?
Sheffield Wednesday Greatest XI
No frills, no nonsense- Pressman was simply a dependable goalkeeper. He was capable of making spectacular saves when he needed to, but it was his positioning and command of the area that made him a fixture in the Owls’ net. 8
There are many questions surrounding Mel Sterland: How did this swashbuckling full back only get one England cap? Which nickname suited him better; Zico or The Flying Pig? Most puzzlingly, how did the safe from a £63,000 post office raid end up in his garage? His autobiography ‘Boozing, Betting and Brawling’ contains some of the answers. In his pomp, Sterland bombing down the wing was a sight to behold. More often than not, the end product was a picture perfect cross or a pile driving shot. Chuck in the free kicks and you had a real player. 8
A Shirecliffe lad who put in a decade of service for his beloved Owls. Smith was a tidy full back who broke a record for scoring eleven penalties in the 79/80 season. One of those spot kicks, the final goal in the 4-0 Boxing Day Massacre, ensured his place in local folklore. 6
In 1962, Swan had 19 England caps and the 26 year old centre half had the world at his feet …then he get involved in one tiny betting scandal. Instead of a glittering career and dining out for the rest of his life as the key defensive player in Alf Ramsey’s 1966 squad, he was kicked out of the game along with Tony Kay and Bronco Layne. The BBC film The Fix, a fictionalised account of the affair, is the only movie directly chronicling the lives of Wednesday players- although large parts of Carry On Screaming are based on the personal life of Ante Mirocevic. 7
Ron Atkinson said that Nilsson was the best professional he ever worked with. The Swede who won 116 international caps was certainly the Owls best ever right back and probably their best ever defender. A genuine class act, Nilsson would have graced any team in the world. 9
Voted Footballer of the Year for 1992/93, a year in which the Owls reached two cup finals and finished seventh in the inaugural Premier League. The former sausage maker was consistently excellent and his first minute free kick in the Wembley semi against United was breathtaking. 9
During the all too brief period that Benny and Paolo Di Canio were at the club together, a large number of Owls fans used to forsake their last pint and get into the ground early to watch the two Italians warm up. In terms of entertainment, the session of keepy uppy and exquisite flicks was worth the entrance money on its own. In the late 90s, most of the action worth watching at Hillsborough was instigated by the small but perfectly formed Carbone. 9
In the last 76 years, only one major trophy has been brought home to S6. The ball dropped to Sheridan on the edge of the area and he slammed it into the bottom corner to clinch victory over Manchester United in the 91 Rumbelows Cup Final. A real highlight, but there were many other moments to savour from the consistent Irish international. In common with every great midfielder, Sheridan always seemed to have more time on the ball that the less gifted players. 8
There are many questions surrounding Mel Sterland: Most puzzlingly, how did the safe from a £63,000 post office raid end up in his garage?
The most prolific marksman in Sheffield Wednesday history, hitting 44 goals in the 50/51 promotion season and finishing up with a 63 goals from 61 games in blue and white. His career ended in tragic circumstances when, after breaking his leg at Preston, gangrene set in and the limb was amputated. Dooley went on to manage the Owls (he was famously sacked on Christmas Eve 1974) then crossed the divide to work for the Blades, eventually becoming Chairman. 7
Hirsty was the perfect striker: with the finesse and skill to unlock a defence backed up with power and pace to batter through it if need be. Alex Ferguson, not a bad judge of a player, offered a British record fee to acquire the services of Hirst, but Wednesday rebuffed him, realising the potential of the lad. David Hirst enjoyed a good career, but a succession of injuries prevented him from becoming the superstar his club and country expected. Nicknamed Norm, as he shared the same social habits as the bar fly from Cheers, he possessed that rare combination of flair and work ethic that marks out truly special performers. 9
After five years in the third tier, the East Bank needed a hero. Terry was the Messiah who lead Wednesday back from the darkness and he did it with style (70s style). Being an exciting, goal scoring winger who was clearly too good for the level he was playing at would be enough for most players, but not for Curran. He didn’t just score against the Blades, he conjured up a Match of the Day Goal of the Month winning super strike. When Terry got sent off at Oldham in 1980, the Owls fans ripped Boundary Park apart in anger. The boy with the tache and the wildest perm also recorded his own version of the terrace anthem ‘Singing the Blues’. 8
Final Score: 88
Sheffield United Greatest XI
Bill ‘Fatty’ Foulke
Some outstanding keepers have played for the Blades in recent years; including Irish internationals Alan Kelly and Paddy Kenny and the sensational Mel Rees, but Fatty Foulke has to be the pick between the sticks. Standing 6 ft 4 “ and reputedly weighing in at up to 24 stone, the England international’s temper was legendary. Foulke was sure that Southampton’s late equalizer in the 1902 FA Cup final had been offside. Seeking vengeance, a naked Fatty stormed out of the dressing room after the match to hunt down the match officials. Some accounts have the bare arsed Behemoth chasing the ref around the pitch in front of the departing crowd, others have Bill demolishing the cupboard that the cowering whistle blower was hiding in. Whichever is true, the message is clear: nobody messed with Bill Foulke. 9
Jags was an integral part of the team that reached two semi-finals and later won promotion to the Premier League. Phil stuck around longer than he had to when the big boys came calling- ensuring a special place in the hearts of the Lane faithful. Magic moments like his 30 yard injury time blockbuster against Leeds and the emergency goalie skills that kept Arsenal at bay mean he will never have to buy a drink in S2. 9
The rock that the last promotion team was built on. Morgan is a player who divides opinion. Non Unitedites view him as a deranged psychopath who should have been banned since die for his elbow assault on Barnsley’s Ian Hulme. Blades fans see a throwback; a man who takes the knocks without complaining and dispenses instant justice. 6
Local lad, powerful shot, pace, nifty wing play, great dead ball striker and premature greyness: what’s not to love?
Like the song says: ‘We ain’t got a barrel of money, but we’ve got Woodward or Currie, And with with Eddie Colquhoun, Promotion is soon, United.’ The Scotsman got stuck in and held the back line together to enable the talented group in front him to express themselves. The early 70s were the party before the hangover and Eddie was the bouncer who kept things on the level. 7
Under Nigel Spackman, United briefly dumped their workmanlike label and played glorious, expansive football. Borbokis, a £1 million buy from AEK Athens was perfect for the 97/98 Blades; a creative soul with vision and a beautiful touch. As is traditional at Bramall Lane, the suits messed up, the best players were sold and the promised golden age turned to s**t. Vas showed he was an excellent judge of character by falling out with new boss Steve Bruce and shipping out. 7
The biggest attendance at Bramall Lane in the 1986/87 season saw a Sunday afternoon game in which Sheffield United’s 1972 promotion side took on Dennis Waterman’s Showbiz XI for Tony Currie’s testimonial. It was a chance for the youngsters to pay tribute to the great man. Currie is arguably the finest player ever to pull on the red and white stripes. A few weeks ago, I saw him in Morrisons in Catcliffe. The other shoppers looked on in awe as TC, wearing full Blades training kit, pushed his trolley round the aisles with the panache and poise that lit up the Lane four decades ago. A living legend. 10
The man who epitomised the up and at ‘em spirit of the Bassett era. At first, sections of the crowd gave Booker the bird, but they soon warmed to a player who made up for his skill deficit with bucketfuls of effort. Bob hung in there when the Blades reached the top division. When the team turned things round after their awful start to life at the top, Bob was in the engine room. When he scored two of United’s four first half goals against Southampton, Booker sparked scenes of mass hysteria akin to a Stooges gig in an ecstasy factory. 4
In 1978, Sheffield United targeted a promising youngster called Diego Maradona. The brass flew out to Argentina and came back with Alex Sabella instead. The South American gave the lads on the Shoreham End an excuse to rip up newspapers and he was more skilful than most of the other Blades players of the time (not exactly a high watermark). In tough times, having a bit of foreign flair made the fans feel better about themselves. Sabella couldn’t turn the tide singlehandedly and relegation followed. He is now using the lessons he learnt at the knee of ‘Happy’ Harry Haslam in his role as coach of the Argentinian national team. 6
Local lad, powerful shot, pace, nifty wing play, great dead ball striker and premature greyness: what’s not to love? In the eyes of the faithful, Woody was a cross between Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray. During a 15 year career he clocked up over 500 appearances. 7
Old blokes would tell anyone who listened that Currie wasn’t fit to lace Jimmy’s boots. In the late 40s and 50s- Jimmy Hagan was Sheffield United. 20 years a Blade in a war interrupted career, he strolled through games, effortlessly spraying balls around while the mere mortals around him toiled in the field. 10
As the Blades climbed the divisions in the late 80s it was the Deane and Agana double act who led the charge. Of the two, it was Tony who had the style. He was everything you wanted a striker to be; composed, stylish and cool as f**k. The guy even played saxophone in his spare time. He didn’t score as many as Deane, but in terms of quality- he was in a different league. 8
Sheffield United 83 – Sheffield Wednesday 88
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