The ups and downs of Sheffield Wednesday 1990-2016

By Sam Koster | @samkoster |


With Sheffield Wednesday currently pushing for what would be a historic promotion from The Sky Bet Championship, a palpable feeling of excitement surrounds a club that has not always endured the richest of fortunes.

Following his appointment, Manager Carlos Carvalhal expressed his desire to “wake up the giant”, a giant that has been somewhat unremarkable since the turn of the millennium.  With promotion seemingly Carvalhal’s Raison D’etre, a return to England’s top-flight would see many football fans filled with a sense of nostalgia, who during the 1990’s became used to The Owls as a mainstay in the old First Division.

Following their triumph over Manchester United in the 1991 league cup final, promotion back into the First Division followed, with the 1991/92 season in particular an exciting one for Wednesday fans. Back-to-back victories against Manchester City and a 3-2 win over Manchester United helped them to an impressive 3rd place finish, with players such as David Hirst, John Sheridan and Nigel Pearson instrumental to the team’s success.

Next season saw the arrival of striker Mark Bright following a successful five-year stay at Crystal Palace, with his arrival praised by Wednesday fans due to his goalscoring record for The Eagles. Despite Wednesday failing to replicate the successes of their third placed finish the previous season, a respectable third place finish followed in the inaugural Premier League season. The Owls also fought their way to both cup finals during the ’92 campaign, but were cruelly beaten by Arsenal on both occasions.

The arrival of reputable manager David Pleat followingTrevor Francis’s departure followed in 1995, but Wednesday were unable to build on their 3rd place finish two years before, finishing around the mid-table mark in most seasons thereafter. Pleat was fired in 1997 with Wednesday struggling to maintain their Premier League status. More disintegration followed until Wednesday’s lamentable decline concluded in a 3-3 draw with Arsenal in 2000. After a nine-year stay in England’s top flight, Wednesday has finally been relegated.

Sheffield Wednesday’s last game in the Premier League was in 2000, in a 3-3 draw against Arsenal at Highbury

While many saw Wednesday as having an outside chance for immediate re-promotion, their fortunes only declined as they were again relegated from the first division in 2003, and the following season flirted with relegation again, finishing 16th in League one alongside teams such as the now defunct Rushden and Diamonds. Various spells in the Championship and League One followed before Wednesday were promoted back into the Championship alongside Charlton and Huddersfield in 2012.

SWFC league positions

2015 saw Wednesday welcome new owner Dejphon Chansiri, who quickly made clear his aim to see Wednesday competing in the Premier League by 2017 to mark the club’s 150th anniversary. Chansiri heavily invested in Wednesday’s playing staff, recruiting the likes of Gary Hooper, Fernando Forestieri and Lucas João while replacing manager Stuart Gray with former Besiktas coach Carlos Carvalhal. The Owls finished the 2015 season in 13th place, their highest ever in the Championship, and last week declared they were debt-free, just a year after Chansiri’s takeover.

After a slow start to the 2015/16 season, star-players such as Gary Hooper and Fernando Forestieri began to justify their summer transfer fees, and it wasn’t long before Wednesday fans began to ask the question nobody wanted to answer: was promotion possible?

Confident wins against teams such as Brentford, Birmingham and Charlton followed, suggested the answer was yes, with defender Tom Lees this week expressing his desire to answer that question once and for all.

He said: “There’s a buzz coming into training. With the season coming to an end, there’s a lot of excitement and we really want to do it.”

“The playoffs aren’t really anything if you’re in the same league the next season.”

With a spot in the playoff’s now just one win away, the fact that The Owls may again compete in The Premier League has culminated in a huge wave of excitement surrounding the club, who at the moment lie sixth in the Championship, with the dream of promotion quickly becoming a possible reality, something that most Wednesday fans will tell you is far, far overdue.

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