Tough times for clubs in the ‘Steel City’
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Tough times for clubs in the ‘Steel City’

Football fans in Sheffield can be forgiven if they are currently feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. Three seasons ago in March 2021 the opening paragraph in this column read: “It has not been a good year for football fans in the city of Sheffield, with United almost certain to drop out of the Premier League and Sheffield Wednesday clinging on by their fingernails in the Championship relegation battle.”

The two clubs went on to be relegated, although they both won promotion last year.

This season the situation in the “Steel City:” is uncomfortably similar to 2021 with United rock bottom in the Premier League and Wednesday 22nd in the Championship and in the relegation mire.

United manager Chris Wilder tried to be upbeat following recent spirited performances by the Blades which has seen three draws in the last four games, including last week’s 2-2 home draw against Chelsea.

“Time is running out,” he admitted. “I feel positive. It’s been a painful season… but today feels like a step in the right direction.”

But it seems too little, too late. United need victories, not draws.

While United require a near-miracle to stay up, Wednesday’s improved form recently has given Owls supporters a realistic belief they can escape the drop, especially with all their relegation rivals struggling.

Owned by Thai seafood magnate Dejpohn Sansiri, the Owls have been in the relegation zone for much of the season but a 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers last weekend followed by a battling come from behind mid-week 2-2 draw against Norwich City has given them some hope.

Wednesday’s German manager Danny Rohl, who at the age of 34 is the youngest gaffer in the Football League, was particularly pleased with his side’s recovery against the Canaries. “It was a strong comeback, all or nothing,” he said. “The atmosphere was special. We must keep going together.”

The Owls are now one place below Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town but only on goal difference.

Wednesday are one of those clubs that has a rich history but sadly the glory days are long gone. They have won the league title three times, but the last occasion was in 1930. They also have three FA Cup trophies, their last triumph being in 1935. The League Cup was their most recent taste of meaningful silverware, but even that was back in 1991 when they upset Manchester United in the final.

One place and one point below Wednesday in the relegation zone are Birmingham City another big club which has fallen on hard times. The Blues, who were in the Premier League in 2011 have lost six of their last seven games and are in deep trouble. Their mid-week loss at home to Cardiff City made things even worse for the West Midlands side.

It looks like the disastrous decision to sack John Eustace when the club was in sixth place and replacing him with Wayne Rooney is coming back to haunt the American owners of Birmingham.

The immediate aim of both Wednesday and United this weekend is to pick up three points. The Owls should have a good chance at home to Stoke City who are in 19th place and not in the best of form. After that their final three fixtures are a mixed bag, away to struggling Blackburn Rovers, home to West Bromwich Albion and away to Sunderland.

The Blades have a vital encounter today away to Brentford who themselves have relegation worries and are battling to secure their Premier League status. It could be quite a scrap.

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