Where Are They Now? Sheffield Wednesday’s Division Two 1983-84 runners-up

By Neil Fissler

IMRE Varadi believes Sheffield Wednesday cost themselves the Second Division title by winning promotion too early.

Howard Wilkinson’s side clinched a return to the First Division six games before the end of the season after leading the title race for most of the season.

But they flagged in the finishing straight, losing at Shrewsbury before drawing at home to Manchester City, and  allowed Chelsea the chance to sneak in and pip them by scoring 12 goals more.

Varadi, who was the club’s leading scorer, admits it would have helped had they still needed points to go up going into their final few games.

“We had a couple of long unbeaten runs and were topping the league for most of the season,” he said.

“We got promoted six games from the end of the season.

“And we found it hard to win a game after that. It allowed Chelsea to pip us on goal difference for the title, but it was a terrific season.

“It was the first time we had got into the big league for about 14 seasons, though we were absolutely gutted not to have won the title. We murdered nearly every team.

“Our problem was we got promoted too early. Mentally, we switched off as a group. It would have helped us had we gone to the second last game to get promoted.”

Varadi points out that Wilkinson, who led them back to the promised land, doesn’t often get the credit he deserves.

“Howard got us very fit,” he said. “We must have been the fittest team in the land. We could go for 90 minutes and whoever played Sheffield Wednesday that season knew they were in for a tough game.

“We put teams under a lot of pressure, we created a lot of chances and Howard was one of the first managers at the time to play with three centre-halves and two wing-backs.

“He didn’t get a lot of credit for that. Mel Sterland and Nigel Worthington got forward and put in crosses and it worked.

“When Howard went to Leeds, he didn’t get the credit he deserved for winning the First and Second Division championships, but he was ahead of his time back in the 1980s.

“Maybe that was because he wasn’t a football purist type of person.

“He knew how to put a team together, get promotion and do a job.”

  1. Tony Cunningham: Striker who won promotion five times in a long career. Lives in Lincoln and since qualifying as a solicitor in 1999, he works for Andrew Jay and Co.
  2. Mark Smith: Central defender and Owls player of the year in 1981. He has been youth team coach at a number of clubs including both the Steel City teams and is now Chesterfield’s academy manager.
  3. Peter Shirtliff: Central defender and a League Cup winner with the Owls. He went into coaching, holding a number of positions, and is now a Premier League academy monitor.
  4. Iain Hesford: Goalkeeper who later won a Division Three title with Sunderland, then became a publican near Rochdale. His brother, Bob, was an England rugby international. Iain died, aged 54, in November 2014.
  5. Martin Hodge: Goalkeeper who started his coaching career at Plymouth , then moved onto the Owls, Rochdale and Leeds. Now scouting for Cardiff City after a similar role at Watford.
  6. John Pearson: Striker who won the Division Two title with Leeds. He has sold insurance, owned a pub, been a players’ agent and worked in the media. Now a community worker for Wednesday.
  7. Mick Lyons: Defender who had a successful career at Everton. Later managed Grimsby and the Brunei national team before moving to Perth, Australia where he has had coaching jobs.
  8. Mel Sterland: Right-back who won one England cap before managing Boston United. Held sales jobs and worked as a players’ agent since being forced to retire at the age of 29.
  9. Peter Eustace: Later managed the Owls and Leyton Orient, before running a pub in Derbyshire. He then scouted for a number of clubs, including West Ham, the Owls and Hartlepool United.
  10. Lawrie Madden: A defender who won the League Cup with the Owls. He went into the media working as a freelance football reporter, lecturer and consultant.
  11. Kevin Taylor: Midfielder who was a member of two Owls promotion-winning squads. He has scouted for Leeds United and works as a forklift driver in a distribution centre.
  12. Gary Bannister: A prolific England Under-21 striker who owned a couple of guesthouses in Cornwall and is now living in the Midlands and working in hotel maintenance.
  13. Imre Varadi: Striker who helped Leeds United win a First Division title. He has been an agent for Stellar Group for the last 14 years and works in the media.
  14. Gary Megson: Midfielder whose father, Don, played for the Owls. He also won a promotion with Man City and managed nine clubs, including Wednesday.
  15. Gary Shelton: England Under-21 midfielder who won a promotion with Bristol City. He was caretaker-manager of the Robins and then coached at Chester and West Brom.
  16. Alan Smith: After working with the England team for eight years, he is now running his own private practice in Rotherham.
  17. Paul Shirtliff: Defender and younger brother of Peter, he was a buyer in the aerospace industry and coached at Barnsley academy. He died in September 2009, aged 46, after a battle with cancer.
  18. Simon Mills: England youth full-back won a promotion with Port Vale and was a drayman for a Sheffield brewery, then ran a fishing tackle business and is now selling footwear.
  19. Gavin Oliver: Central defender who went on to make more than 300 appearances for Bradford. He was a community officer, then scouted for Sunderland and is currently at Man City.
  20. Howard Wilkinson: He later managed Leeds and has twice been caretaker-manager of England. A former chairman of the League Managers’ Association and the Owls.
  21. David Mossman: Winger who won a Conference title with Lincoln City. Lives in Todwick, near Sheffield, and has worked as a business and management consultant.
  22. Nigel Worthington: Defender who won the League Cup with the Owls. Managed Blackpool, Norwich, Leicester, Northern Ireland and York. Now club ambassador at Fakenham Town.
  23. Chris Morris: Defender who enjoyed success with Celtic and Middlesbrough. He was a property developer, then ran the family pasty-making business. Now an FA coach in Cornwall.

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