The bus pulled up into Hillsborough, where the ground of the mighty Wednesday lies. We looked around. We looked around and saw the Owls fans, clad in blue and white, heading towards the ground in their droves. Marching on to the match, and not a single United fan in sight.
The atmosphere in the build-up to this match was by far and away the best I’d ever experienced in my short life. The men, fuelled by beer, were singing at the top of their voices. The famous Wednesday Band were playing their instruments louder than ever before. Everyone in blue was confident Wednesday could emerge victorious.
I looked at Paul, and he looked back at me. We smiled in excitement. Being only nine, I’d never experienced anything like this before. I heard someone say that fans had been queuing since before dawn just to get into the ground for the match. This was the first derby between Wednesday and United for eight years, and police had been making an extra effort to make sure it all went smoothly. I’d never seen so many police for any event, yet they seemed to be here in their thousands. It looked like the biggest operation in years. It was obvious this was special to everyone.
Once the start of the match approached, we quickened our pace, so we could get round to our places on the Kop in time to see our Blue and White Wizards walk out. We passed thousands walking the opposite way, and just as many walking with us, meaning we couldn’t turn back, even if we wanted to. We got to the turnstiles, and bunched together to get in for the price of just one. We climbed the stairs to the top of the stand, and then as we emerged from the concourse, it hit us. The noise. The colour. The people. I looked at Paul, my friend. He’d been near-silent since we got off of the bus, and now I could see why. He was in awe of it all. He’d never been to a Wednesday match before, and he’d picked this one, the biggest one of them all, to make his debut at.
It was even better here in the ground that it was on the streets outside. Everyone was singing and dancing up and down the stand. I saw thousands of blue and white scarves around the ground, and up the other end of the ground were the United fans, looking terrified and nervous.
Suddenly, a loud voice came over the tannoy. A man we'd never heard before was trying to read out the teams, but his voice was a whisper compared to the noise emanating from the fans. We looked down at the pitch, to see 11 men clad in blue and white emerging onto the When we saw them, the roar from the Kop became almost deafening. It was like a lion’s roar, but amplified a thousand times over. Next to us, an old man shouted “come on you Owls” and made Paul jump out of his skin with fright. The cheers continued as the players lined up and shook hands. Time seemed to freeze for a split second as the referee blew his whistle and the greatest war of all time began. I hadn’t been nervous for the last week in the build-up to the game, but now I was terrified. What if we were to lose? How would I face my United friends? These thoughts were instantly flushed out of my mind as I was sucked in to the merry chant of the Wednesdayites.
The game was scrappy, the muddy pitch preventing any decent passing moves. This made the game that bit more exciting. We always looked like the more likely team to score, and eventually we did, thanks to a bit of magic from Ian Mellor. He took it down to his feet on the edge of the United penalty area, before rifling a shot past the keeper and into the top corner of the goal. The crowd went wild with joy. The players and staff went wild. Me and Paul turned to each other, and jumped into each other’s arms. This was the best moment of my life so far, and there was nothing to top it. Now we had the bit between our teeth, there was nothing going to stop us winning this game. We were leading at the break thanks to our best performance of the season, and the best atmosphere for years.
In the second half, we stormed away with the game, and it went by in a blur. Goals from Curran, King, and Smith meant the second half simply flew by, and made our Christmas. It was by far and away our best ever result against United, and it couldn’t have been better.
As me and Paul left the ground after over half an hour of celebrations, I looked at his face. He looked to be in shock, and quite rightly so. A great game, and his first ever. Then I realized what I’d done. I’d infected my best friend with a disease he’d never be cured from. I’d given him the Wednesday bug. The best thing since sliced bread. The spirit of a true Owl.