Sheffield Wednesday: Promotion was the highlight of my career, says ex-Owls boss

Owls boss Paul Sturrock
Owls boss Paul Sturrock

Tomorrow marks 10 years since Sheffield Wednesday secured promotion to the Championship after a memorable 4-2 play-off final victory over Hartlepool United.

And former Owls manager Paul Sturrock still regards that triumph at the Millennium Stadium as the highlight of his managerial career.

The Owls, backed by more than 40,000 supporters, prevailed in Cardiff following a thrilling final.

Sturrock’s side led at half-time thanks to a close range strike by midfielder Jon-Paul McGovern but Hartlepool turned things around after the interval courtesy of strikes by Eifion Williams and Jon Daly.

With eight minutes remaining, there was another big twist as Wednesday’s leading goal-scorer Steve MacLean, brought on as a second-half substitute, levelled things up from the penalty spot after Chris Westwood was sent off for a foul on Drew Talbot.

Westwood’s dismissal gave the Owls the upperhand and Glenn Whelan and Drew Talbot completed the stunning turnaround in extra time.

Sturrock, who managed Wednesday from 2004-06, admitted: “The best day I’ve ever had in management was the play-off final with Sheffield Wednesday.

“There were 41,000 Wednesday fans at the game. The whole day was unbelievable.

“We went 1-0 up, they go 2-1 up, I put three subs on including Steve Maclean - who hadn’t played for three months - and he scored the equaliser. It went into extra-time and Glenn Whelan scored and then Drew Talbot scored in the last seconds and we went up. The ups and downs were fantastic.”

Members of the promotion-winning team, including Lee Bullen, Paul Heckingbottom, Chris Brunt and Glenn Whelan, attended Wednesday’s 10-year anniversary dinner just over two months ago to relive the special day.

Sturrock, who now lives in Cornwall, said the celebrations after the final were an “anti-climax”.

“I was trying to drink and it didn’t taste right,” said the Scot, who recently penned a two-year contract with relegated Yeovil Town.

“Then on the way back we stopped at a service station - not thinking about it being the second one up from Cardiff - and there were 7,000 fans there and they spotted us and sang Wednesday songs. I felt a bit better after that.”


The Conquest of Cardiff - The players recall their experience of the day

Slideshow and Video Highlights: How The Star covered the match - Paul Thompson’s report

Slideshow: Celebration pictures and reactions from the players

Slideshow: How the fans saw it - pictures from the day as Wednesdayites engulfed Cardiff