Sheffield Wednesday Football Club was founded in 1867 in South Yorkshire. The Owls were formed by The Wednesday Cricket Club, which some argue dates back to 1820. The Yorkshire club was known as the Wednesday Football Club until 1929, when they changed to their current name.
Wednesday is a historic institution, as they are one of the oldest football clubs in the world and the second oldest in English football.
In their long history, Sheffield Wednesday has won several pieces of silverware, including the English top-flight title on four occasions, the FA Cup three times and the League Cup once. In the latter, the Owls made history in a 1-0 final win over Manchester United in 1991, as they are the last team from outside the top flight to win a major domestic trophy.
Wednesday has had the honour of being English champions on four occasions. Here is the story of those English top-flight titles:
The early history
Having been formed initially by the cricket club to keep their players fit during the winter, The Wednesday Football Club came into existence in 1867. However, a dispute over finances in 1882 saw the football club split off from the cricket club.
In 1889 The Wednesday were one of the founding members of the Football Alliance, a competition they won in the inaugural season. In 1892, the Yorkshire outfit was elected to join the Football League for the first time.
In the 1899/1900 season, Wednesday started construction on their current home Hillsborough Stadium after an extensive search for a new home for the budding club. The new ground was built within months of the start of construction.
Success in the early 1900s
The construction of the new ground helped Wednesday usher in a new era for the club, as the Owls won their first English top-flight title in season 1902/03 when the Yorkshire outfit finished just a point ahead of second-place Aston Villa in a tight title race. Wednesday ended the campaign with the best defensive record.
The Yorkshire club retained the title the following season, this time finishing three points ahead of runners-up Manchester City, who also claimed the FA Cup in the same season. Their second title was also based on solid defensive foundations, as Wednesday’s tally of just 28 goals conceded was the lowest of any team in the English top flight.
Wednesday also won their second FA Cup in 1907, beating Everton 2-1 in the final. Their first triumph in the competition had been nine years earlier when they had recorded a 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1896.
Relegation and a return to form
In 1915 the English top flight was suspended due to World War 1 and didn’t resume until the end of the conflict in 1919. During the war years, Wednesday played in some unofficial local league matches.
After the war, the Yorkshire club struggled for success on the field and, in 1920, suffered relegation to the Second Division for the first time in the club’s history. Wednesday failed to return to the English top flight until 1926.
Season 1927/1928 once again saw Wednesday come close to relegation, only for a late-season surge to rescue them from the drop. The late-season good form carried into the next English top-flight campaign, and the Owls won their third English football top-flight title the following season. Once again, Wednesday finished the English First Division campaign with the league’s best defence.
They retained their title in the season 1929/30, this time romping to the title, finishing a massive ten points ahead of second-place Derby County.
From the title-winning campaign until 1936, the Yorkshire side finished outside the English top-flight’s top three on just one occasion. During that period, in 1935, they won their third FA Cup beating West Brom 4-2 in a thrilling encounter at Wembley.
During World War ll, Sheffield Wednesday once again took part in the unofficial war leagues to maintain fitness and morale.
An inconsistent period
Wednesday struggled to maintain its English top-flight status during the 1950s. Following promotion in 1950, the Owls suffered relegation on three occasions. However, each time they returned to the top flight, it was as second-tier champions.
A slight resurgence before a decline
The club enjoyed a resurgence in 1961, as they finished as First Division runners-up to Tottenham. Wednesday was the first team to defeat the champions in their title-winning campaign.
The runners-up spot is still Sheffield Wednesday’s highest post-war finish in the English top flight. In 1966, despite taking a two-goal lead in the FA Cup final against Everton, the Owls suffered a 3-2 defeat.
Unfortunately for the Yorkshire club, they then went into decline. Wednesday suffered relegation from the English top flight in 1970 and found themselves in the third and nearly the fourth tiers in 1976.
A change of fortunes
Jack Charlton guided the club back to the second tier in 1980 before Howard Wilkinson helped the Owls back to the top flight four years later. The Yorkshire team had been absent from the First Division for 14 years.
Wednesday enjoyed relative success in the English top flight in the late 1980’s finishing eighth and fifth place in the First Division. Unfortunately for the Yorkshire club, the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1985 led to all English clubs being banned from European football.
In season 1991/1992, Sheffield Wednesday achieved their highest finish since 1961, as the Owls finished in third place and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Wednesday continued to enjoy relative success, including in season 1992/03 when they finished seventh place in the table and lost both FA Cup and League Cup finals.
Relegation in 2000 and decline
The club enjoyed had enjoyed a highly creditable 1990s. However, in 2000 they suffered relegation to the second tier, despite having the likes of Paolo Di Canio, Benito Carbone and Wim Jonk in their squad.
The club’s finances took a hit, as the Owls had spent big on player transfer fees and wages, leading to the club’s financial trouble. Off-the-field troubles contributed to Wednesday’s relegation to the third tier for only the second time in their history.
Since their relegation from the Premier League in 2000, the club has never returned to the English top flight. The Owls have spent most of their recent history in the English second tier, with occasion campaigns in the third tier.
Sheffield Wednesday is a sleeping giant
Many clubs could be considered sleeping giants, and Sheffield Wednesday fits into that category. Unfortunately, the club has been unable to compete at the top level in recent decades.
However, Wednesday fans will hope that one day they will return to their former glories and once against become a force in the English game.