Friday saw the start of the 14th UEFA European Football Championships in Poland and the Ukraine. Since it’s modern inception in 1960 there have only been seven Sheffield Wednesday players to grace this competition whilst playing for The Owls. Here they are in order of how high they finished in the tournament.
Joint Third Place
Chris Woods & Carlton Palmer – Euro 1992, Niclas Alexandersson – Euro 2000
The 1992 tournament was sandwiched nicely between the most successful years in Sheffield Wednesday’s recent history. In 1991 the Owls had won the League Cup and in 1993 they finished 7th in the newly formed Premier League, played in both FA and League cup finals and played in Europe, if only for a brief time. Sheffield Wednesday were playing with the big boys and England had paid attention.The problem was that the England team, selected by a man who would soon be morphed with a vegetable, was described as ‘the least talented squad in England history.’ A stab through any Wednesday fan’s heart when two of their best players were now prominent England players.The media were proved to be right. England finished the bottom of their group and didn’t qualify for the knockout stages. With only 2 points gained they lost 2-1 to host nation Sweden and played out two 0-0 draws with France and Denmark. England only scored one goal in the whole championship but to credit Chris Woods he only let in two goals against Sweden. A game that will forever be overshadowed by the substitution of Gary Lineker before he had the chance to equal Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record. He retired after the match.
Palmer and Woods made little impact, finished bottom of their group and failed to qualify for the later stages and therefore they both finish at the bottom of the list of Wednesday Euro achievers.
Niclas Alexandersson was a fine player and one of only two players sold for over a million pound by Sheffield Wednesday in the last 12 years. By the time Alexandersson met up with the Swedish squad in Belgium for Euro 2000, Wednesday had been relegated from the Premiership for the first time and he was about to be sold to Everton.
To compound Alexandersson’s season, Sweden finished bottom of the group with only one point which was gained in a 0-0 draw with Turkey. Sweden lost 2-1 to Belgium and Italy to finish off a poor tournament.
Alexandersson never played for the Owls again.
Joint Second Place
Gilles de Bilde – Euro 2000, Pavel Srnicek – Euro 2000, Tony Galvin – Euro 1988
De Bilde was a team mate of Alexandersson in the relegated 1999/2000 Wednesday team. The Belgian striker had benefitted numerous times from the Swedes crossing abilities. In Euro 2000 De Bilde was part of the host nation Belgium squad (co-hosted by the Netherlands).
Belgium and Sweden were both in Group B and again both didn’t qualify for the knockout stages. Belgium however, finished 3rd in the group above Sweden. De Bilde only made one appearance in the 2-0 defeat against Turkey. As mentioned before the Belgians beat Sweden 2- 1 but these were the only points they picked up. They went on to lose 2-0 to Italy and Turkey.
When de Bilde returned from Belgium he lasted another few months at Wednesday before being loaned out to Aston Villa. He rarely played for the Owls again as the mass exodus and downward trajectory began.
Although Euro 2000 was in essence Wednesday’s most successful in terms of quantity of players attending, but apart from Alexandersson the quality wasn’t there. Pavel, once a decent goalkeeper, had failed to help Wednesday stave of relegation that season and was released in the summer after the Euros.
Srnicek finished in exactly the same position as de Bilde but in Group D in Euro 2000. The Czech’s lost 1-0 to the Netherlands, lost 2-0 to France, and beat the Denmark 2-0 and didn’t qualify for the knockout stages. Success was again thin on the ground.
Few people will remember Tony Galvin as a Wednesday player, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of him before I started researching this article. Galvin was a left winger from Spurs, sold to The Owls in 1987 but unfortunately Galvin’s Wednesday career was hit with injury. In two seasons he only managed 21 appearances, 15 of which were from the subs bench. David Pleat was to continue that trait of buying and selling injured players in his stint as Owls manager.
Galvin’s international career was, however, more auspicious. In1988 the Republic of Ireland qualified for the Euros for the first ever time, under the reign of ex Sheffield Wednesday Manager Jack Charlton. It was a landmark in Irish football. Although the Republic finished 3rd in their group and didn’t qualify for the knockout stages, their attendance at this tournament was significant. The Irish lost one (Netherlands), drew one (Soviet Union) and won one. The one they won was against England. A match that made Ray Houghton a legend. It was also Galvin that crossed the ball that Kenny Samson mis-kicked and let Houghton score.
Although Tony Galvin finished in the same position in the Euros to Srnicek and de Bilde, his contribution to Irish footballing history has to be recognised.
And now to reveal the top performing Owls player at a European Championship
First Place goes to…Roland Nilsson – Euro 1992
Roland ‘Roly’ Nilsson is a God. I’ve already mentioned earlier when talking about Palmer and Woods that the 1992 tournament happened at the height of Sheffield Wednesday’s success. As England faltered the Swedish squad was in its ascendancy and as with The Owls, Nilsson was a key member of the team.
On homesoil, Nilsson’s team won their group by beating, soon to be crowned Champions, Denmark 1-0, England 2-1 and drawing with France 1-1. Of all the other serving Owls players, Roly is the only one to reach the knockout stages of the Euros. Although Sweden lost to a German team playing for the first time as a unified country in the Semi-finals, the Swedes made them work for it. Sweden finished 3rd overall, a feat they would replicate in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
To this day Nilsson remains the most capped outfield player for Sweden and a Wednesday legend.
When I started to research this article I hadn’t counted on the depressing nature of Sheffield Wednesday’s venture into the Euros. Roland is our European shining light, let’s hope there will be more players to add to this list, if only to make it up to a list of ten!