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Sheffield Wednesday vs United: 5 reasons why Steel City Derby is one of England’s fiercest

United and Wednesday go head-to-head once more on Sunday after over fi years off the football calendar. Here's why it's not to missed, as told from one of the city's own.

When someone thinks of a traditional English football derby, the clashes in Merseyside, North London and Tyne-Wear are normally what spring to most people’s minds first.

Sheffield, though, has the Steel City Derby, and those who live in the South Yorkshire city know exactly how important it is to all half a million of its residents.

1. They’re tight and tense affairs

It’s a cliché to say tackles are flying in from all angles and all players during a derby but that’s exactly the case.

Rarely does more than goal separate the two sides at the final whistle so it’s really not over until it’s over.

Blowouts seldom happen, a 4-0 win for Wednesday in 1980 and a 7-3 victory for United in 1952 being some of the biggest differences between the sides in 90 minutes down the years. 

If the champagne football of some of the Premier League’s derbies isn’t to your liking, look no further than Sunday’s game.

Both are normally footballing sides these days, which should occasionally shine through but it’ll be a throwback to a bygone era of the game for the majority of the match.

2. The fans hate each other

The contest has taken on many guises over the years as the circumstances surrounding both clubs have changed. One thing remains constant, though, we hate everything about them, and they can’t stand anything about us.

There are examples of derbies where there is a strong rivalry, but also an underlying respect between the two sets of supporters. That doesn’t exist in Sheffield. 

Even those that aren’t interested in football are forced to support one side, whether it be with friends, colleges or family. You’re either red or blue, there is no fence to sit on. 

This passionate and mutual loathing of the other side comes across in the bellowing atmosphere that characterises the game. The noise created by both Bramall Lane’s and Hillsborough’s kop (where the most hardcore sections of support are found) is always loud but for this fixture, it’s deafening.

Every free-kick, every tackle, every throw-in, every decision that doesn’t go your side’s way, you scream at the referee and lambast the offending player. 

3. Flashes of brilliance

Something you wouldn’t expect in a match like this is great goals, but there have been world-class goals scored down the years.

Ade Akinbiyi, Lee Williamson, Michael Tonge and Chris Waddle have all scored screamers but, without a doubt, Michael Brown takes the cake.

His unbelievable volley to complete a United comeback against a stubborn Wednesday in 2003 has gone down in folklore as one of the best goals scored at Bramall Lane. 

With talented players on both side of the divide on show on Sunday, don't be surprised to see another stunner added to the highlight reels. 

4. Different philosophies

How the two Sheffield clubs have gone about their business has meandered through the decades, but they've rarely agreed on how to do so.

I could walk you through the history, but that would take far too long, so let's focus on the here and now. Wednesday's new owner has invested heavily in the squad, bringing in ex-Premier League players through several multi-million-pound deals. 

United, meanwhile, have always been shrewd in the transfer market, preferring to rely on their academy than splashing the cash. Phil Jagielka, Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton, Harry Maguire and most recently, Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all graduated and made their way to the top of the English pyramid. 

The contrast is even evident on the managerial front; the Owls opting for Carlos Carvalhal of Portugal, who has managed several top-flight clubs around Europe. 

The Blades meanwhile have Chris Wilder guiding them, who hails from Sheffield and is a through-and-through Blade, having been a ball-boy, player and manager of United. 

I won't pretend the dissimilarity is on the scale of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but it makes for a fascinating contest. 

5. Form goes out the window

It's not uncommon for the out-of-form or side that lacks the quality to triumph in these ties. You might as well not look at the table before the kick-off to get an idea who has the better chance, it doesn't seem to matter.

What matters, though, is which side turns up and is most motivated on the day. It's both managers' first Steel City Derby, but Wilder has plenty of experience of this game as a fan and player. 

The most prevalent example of the unpredictability was back in the 1993 FA Cup Semi-Final. Over 75,000 Sheffielders packed out the terraces at the old Wembley and produced an atmosphere of biblical proportions.

Wednesday were one of the best sides in England and boasted several of the country's internationals, while United were a mid-table top division side. 

The gulf in quality was evident through the game, but, as is typical in these matches, just a solitary goal decided the fixture. It took until extra-time for the winner to be scored. 

Both sides have had solid starts to this year's championship campaign and find themselves in the top half of the table. Wednesday are the home side, but United have had better results, so, as usual, it should be close. 

Who do you think will come out on top in Sunday's derby? Let us know in the poll below!

  1. POLL: What will the result of the match be?

    1. Wednesday Win
    2. Draw
    3. United Win
    250 votes
    Share Your Result

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George Howson

21-year-old F1, Football and Tennis fanatic from Yorkshire who tells it as it is. Also an aspiring photographer and currently studying Automotive Engineering at University.

Sheffield Wednesday vs United: 5 reasons why Steel City Derby is one of England’s fiercest

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