The Sharp Blade – Sheffield’s El Clasico

FC BARCELONA and Real Madrid have their El Clasico, but for footie fans in Sheffield there is only one derby match that matters - United versus Wednesday.

The news fans from both sides of the Steel City divide have been waiting for was revealed on Friday - the dates of the coming season’s Sheffield Derby.

And we won’t have to wait too long. The Blades host the Owls at Bramall Lane on 15th October, and the two sides will clash at Hillsborough on 25th February.

United and Wednesday fans will have many memories from Sheffield derbies over the years, but here are my Top 5...

1. Sheffield United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (1991)

What a game. First off, it was my first ever Sheffield derby, it was the first league clash between the two sides in years, and the first meeting in the top flight for 14 years.

The Blades were boosted by the return of talismanic striker Brian Deane who made his first start for two months after being laid low with glandular fever.

The atmosphere was electric, I had never known anything like it. The match, as one comes to expect from derbies, was played at 100mph.

And just before half time the roof came off Bramall Lane. Ian Bryson raced clear, his shot was parried by Chris Woods, and Sheffield born Blades fan Dane Whitehouse was on hand to bury the ball into the empty net in front of the Kop. Ecstacy. Bedlam.

In the second half, things only got better.

Returning hero Deano hit a low shot that went straight through the legs (which for one moment resembled the Wicker Arches) of Owls keeper Chris Woods. What a howler. The Blades fans went crazy. Deano scores on his return against our bitter rivals. The script couldn’t have been written better.

A great performance from the Blades, and a thoroughly deserved 2-0 win.

2. Sheffield Wednesday 1 Sheffield United 3 (1992)

The Owls were seeking revenge for their defeat at Bramall Lane earlier in the season.

But their hopes suffered a bitter blow in just the third minute when the ball was cut back for that man again - Dane Whitehouse - to sweep the ball home in front of the 8,000 Sheffield United fans massed in the Leppings Lane end.

And it was a case of deja vu for the hapless Chris Woods 20 minutes later - some more calamity goalkeeping gifting the Blades a second goal.

Woods hesitated and made a complete hash of a hopeful ball that had been knocked into the box and on-loan striker Bobby Davidson - who was making his debut - capitalised to make it 2-0.

Early in the second half Wednesday reduced the arrears with a spawny deflected goal from a free kick, but United restored their two goal lead with Bobby Davidson’s second of the night - a diving header following a fine ball into the box from John Gannon.

We’d done the double over our bitter rivals. It doesn’t get much better than that.

3. Sheffield United 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1 (2003)

The Blades were on fire going into this game. Near the top end of the league, we had reached the Semi Finals of the League Cup, and were still in the FA Cup.

The first half was goaless and far from memorable. But the game soon sprang to life just after half time.

Alan Quinn gave Wednesday the lead and momentarily silenced the home fans. It looked like it wasn’t going to be our night.

But Steve Kabba’s strike restored parity, then just three minutes later Blades midfielder Michael Brown lifted the roof as he gave United the lead with an absolute wonder strike.

The ball was headed clear by the Wednesday defence and dropped in front of Brown who was a good 25 yards from goal. He hit the ball sweet on the volley and it flew like an exocet into the top corner - leaving Kevin Pressman with absolutely no chance. A goal of the season contender.

Twelve minutes from time Wayne ‘The Chief’ Allison wrapped up another famous win for the Blades over the Owls.

4. Sheffield Wednesday 1 Sheffield United 2 (2006)

THE Blades went into this game in the automatic promotion places. Wednesday on the other hand were just outside the drop zone.

But as well all know, form and league position counts for nothing in a derby match.

I was unable to get a ticket for this match, and so instead watched it, along with thousands of others, on a big screen at Bramall Lane.

The game came to live seven minutes before half time. United had a free kick over by the corner flag, and it seemed that Michael Tonge would have no option other than to send a cross into the box and hope a Blades head would get on the end of it.

But Tonge had other ideas. He had only one thought in his mind. He curled an absolute pearler right into the postage stamp.

Then, in first half stoppage time, Ade Akinbiyi fired in a stinging volley to double the Blades lead.

The Blades started the second half where they left off, creating chance after chance. Unfortunately these chances went begging and we were unable to extend our lead.

The home side scored a late penalty, and despite some later pressure from the home side, the Blades were able to hang on to complete yet another league double over the Owls.

5. Sheffield United 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2 (2009)

WHAT a first half. Two goals up after just 14 minutes - courtesy of strikes from Darius Henderson and Jamie Wad.

We were all over them and deservedly went 3-0 up before the break - thanks to an own goal from Buxton.

Bramall Lane was rocking like never before. It seemed certain we were going to go on to score more, and finally avenge those awful memories of the infamous Boxing Day Massacre.

Unfortunately there were no further Blades goals forthcoming, and a spirited Wednesday fightback meant we were happy to hang on for a 3-2 win.

Not as a resounding victory as it could have been, but a victory over our old foes none the less. And that’s all that counts.