We went back to Hillsborough after eighteen years

Last updated : 31 March 2006 By Tony Scholes
Gareth Taylor - gave us the lead in the first match of the 2001/02 season
Back in 1983 we earned ourselves a draw there in the league but crashed out of the FA Cup on in an FA Cup 6th round replay later in the season. It would be eighteen years and one day before we would play there again.

On the day Burnley were winning promotion at Scunthorpe, Wednesday's relegation from the Premiership was confirmed. They'd been in the Premiership since its conception and in the last pre-Premiership year had finished in 3rd place in the league.

But after playing their football two divisions above us in 1999/2000 season we were back in the same league the following season, although our visit to Hillsborough that season was hardly an enjoyable one.

We'd been on a disappointing run but had won at Watford in midweek, with Gareth Taylor (not with his head) scoring his first Burnley goal. We were eight places and thirteen points above Wednesday and with two games in hand. We'd beaten them at home earlier in the season and were favourites to do the double over them. It never does quite work out as it should though.

On a day when we were at our worst, the only consolation was that Wednesday were no better but they had the trump card in referee Rejer who seemed intent to make life as difficult for us as possible. More than once, when we won free kicks, he forced us to move the ball a couple of feet to the precise position but when Wednesday took one about twenty yards from the offence it was fine.

Just before half time the home side took the lead when Ian Hendon was put clear, he was some distance offside but it didn't appear to matter and when he hammered his shot in off the underside of the bar it gave Wednesday an interval lead.

Just to make sure of the points, Rejer awarded them a ridiculous penalty twenty minutes from the end, Gerald Sibon scored and that was that. Our first visit to Hillsborough in years had ended in defeat.

The fun wasn't over as manager Stan Ternent turned on his players after the game. He said he couldn't wait to get rid of some of them but when the following season started each and everyone of them was still with the club.

We didn't have to wait too long for this fixture in 2001/02 season, although it was a few hours later than expected. We were paired on the opening day of the season, and that's when it would have been played only for the ill fated ITV Sport channel to intervene and move us into the Sunday evening slot to compete with Dame Thora Hird and Songs of Praise.

Paul Cook confronted by a Wednesday fan after scoring from the spot
It just didn't seem to be right not having a game as the season got underway and it certainly didn't seem right kicking off at 6:15 on a Sunday evening, but of course we all had to lean over backwards for this television company that was going to make us all rich.

We kicked off without any new signings on the pitch, although four of the substitutes Luigi Cennamo, Arthur Gnohere, Alan Moore and Tony Ellis were all summer signings. Again the game was influenced by a bad referee, on this occasion Phil Dowd, but he was to help us clinch a victory later in the game.

We started badly and after a quarter of an hour you wondered just how we were still level and we looked as though we were still in the Isle of Man. But it soon changed round and by half time we were very much on top.

The opening goal came just before the hour and it was classic Taylor, heading in a superb cross from Gordon Armstrong, who was playing at left back. It was no more than we deserved and then, just as Wednesday had clinched the win with a penalty earlier in the year, we did the same through Paul Cook.

There was no doubt about the decision but Chris Stringer saved Cook's spot kick only for Dowd to order a retake after home players encroached. This time he made no mistake but then had to defend himself against some Wednesday fans who got onto the pitch. One threw a punch at Cook, but Stan was on and got it sorted in his way.

It was a fantastic way to start the season, and as we know the good start continued for a while. It was Stan's first win at Hillsborough with Burnley, apart from the defeat in the previous season he had played there for the Clarets, making his debut in a crushing 7-0 defeat.

In 2002/03 we had more than recovered from a poor start to the season and arrived unbeaten in eight league and cup games, and just before kick off we learned we had been drawn against Spurs in the next round of the League Cup. Everything was looking good and nothing happened that day at Hillsborough to spoil it, although we had a nervous end to the game before winning it 3-1.

Just as in the previous season Taylor gave us the lead with a header from a left wing cross by the full back at the same end of the ground. This time the cross came from Graham Branch who was settling into his new role on the left hand side of defence.

Taylor and Blake celebrate Taylor's opener in 2002
Branch and Taylor had been targets for the boo boys, but the two of them combined well to silence the dissenters as the Clarets got off to a cracking start. As the first half wore on we started to defend even deeper and allowed Wednesday back into the game but we held onto our lead and early in the second half we clinched the points with two superb goals.

Firstly Glen Little and Robbie Blake combined on the right hand side and after exchanging passes Robbie played Glen in for a delightful goal. It was a real goal of the season contender but so was Ian Moore's that followed three minutes later.

He was put clear by Branch and after beating Geary on the edge of the box he hammered in an unstoppable shot into the corner to Pressman's right. It should have been all over but in the previous away game we had let a lead slip against nine man Bradford City and we tried so hard to lose this lead.

Wednesday pulled one back and put us under enormous pressure and we were thankful that Marlon Beresford was in top form or they really could have got back into the game as Sibon took over the game. He made three outstanding saves in the space of just a few minutes and ensured we won the points.

Sheffield Wednesday were relegated at the end of that season, we were a division above them for the first time since the 1970s, and three years on we are back to Hillsborough this Saturday.