The last time Crystal Palace came to Hillsborough the day ended in tears for many Wednesdayites. My day on the other hand ended in guiding a drunk bride to be through the streets of Benalmadena whilst trying to tactically avoid a traveller stag/hen do and overly aggressive club promo people.
Earlier in the day I’d left the hen and the rest of the girls around the pool whilst I went back to the apartment to watch Wednesday fight valiantly to avoid relegation to League 1. Luckily the BBC had decided to show the match so with a cold beer in hand and a German couple having a domestic next door, I celebrated each equaliser and chastised Leon Clarke for breaking his toe on an adverting board.
It was torture being so far away from Hillsborough on one of the most important days in recent Owls history but at least I could drown in alcoholic fish bowls to forget with a woman in a tutu.
Whilst reminiscing this week and plotting revenge on Crystal Palace, I came to the conclusion that Spain was the oddest place I had watched a Wednesday match but in the deep recesses of my mind I remembered an even weirder occasion and it took place on my 36-hour holiday to the Isle of Skye.Occasionally at Eastertime my family and I used to travel in Scotland and more often than not we stayed on the Isle of Skye. It’s a stunningly beautiful island to which I have spent many a happy day. When I missed a family trip one year my dad said he would take my cousin and I over the Easter holidays.
We took the train all the way to Inverness. Throughout the journey my dad would point out landmarks and we counted football grounds as we travelled. The further we travelled the more frustrated my dad got at the bleep of Tetris on my cousin’s Gameboy when the scenery outside was so spectacular.
When we reached Inverness we were to catch another train to Kyle of Lochalsh, the last stop of the mainland before Skye. On the platform, waiting to board the train we spotted a man with a thick Glaswegian accent. Not unusual you would think but he was with a woman with a cut glass accent and two very posh children. They seemed a very odd couple.
During the journey we pulled into a very rural station and the Glaswegian man climbed onto one of the carriage tables, opened the small window and shouted ‘Willie’ to a white bearded man on the platform. They had an unintelligible conversation until the train pulled away from the station.
It was then dad said he was certain that he now knew who the man was. He’d seen an article about him The Guardian. The man was Jimmy Boyle, reformed gangland murderer and the man who reputedly kept the Krays out of Scotland.
My cousin and I stared at him all the way to Plockton trying not to catch the murderer’s eye otherwise Hamish Macbeth might have had to solve a couple of missing person cases.
By the time we reached Kyle of Lochalsh is was dark, freezing and we had been travelling for over 12 hours. To get to the Isle of Skye and the comfort of our guest house, we still had to catch a ferry. With hailstones as big as tennis balls blowing in horizontally as we stood on the deck, we were ready for a rest and a paracetamol.
We walked around the bay to the guest house that we had stayed at on many occasions but tonight there was something different. It was in darkness. Dad knocked on the door and as he continued to bang loudly I noticed one of the side windows was broken. Out of curiosity I decided to walk around the house. There wasn’t a window in the place, each one had been ceremoniously smashed. Just as the words had left my mouth about the windows the front door opened. A drunken Igor type figure opened the door and stumbled back inside.
We followed him into the kitchen, where he did his best to explain that the owner had been having an affair with one of the rival guest house owner’s wives. During the day the husband of the wife had been around and used the pathway paving to make a new feature out of the B&B’s windows. The owner had fled leaving Igor in charge, who had seemingly helped himself to the bar whilst the owner was away.
The question of what to do next was a difficult one.
The only phone in the place was in a cubby hole behind the reception. The door had been kicked so hard it had bent on the hinges and Dad had to pull the door off just to get to the phone.
In one of the greatest phonecalls I have ever heard, I listened to my cousin tell my aunt, ‘Uncle David has had me on a train with a murderer and there are no windows in the guest house.’ I could hear the panic down the line.
It was getting very late. There was no bedding in any of the rooms and no locks on the doors. For safety we stayed in the living room and put on the TV. Whilst we were sitting in our nightgowns, surrounded by glass and watching the net curtains billowing in through the broken windows, another guest returned home. The man was a road worker who was building the road bridge to Skye. He’d been home for the Easter break and returned to his digs to find us huddling for warmth in the fragments of the guest house.
When we told him our story about the journey and Jimmy Boyle, he took great pleasure in explaining how Jimmy Boyle reputedly nailed a man to warehouse floor and other gruesome tales of gangland torture. The Isle of Skye was turning into the campsite from Friday the 13th.
It’s at this point that I vividly remember watching Sportscene. Between the horror tales of murder and catching hypothermia, Sheffield Wednesday’s highlights from their match at Swindon Town appeared on the screen. Why was a Scottish league football show showing extended highlights of Swindon v Wednesday?? To this day I can’t answer that question.It was a surreal moment to watch Gordon Watson score score the winner in a B&B with no windows and a rough arsed road worker we’d only just met.
Wednesday won 0-1. It was the only joy I remember that evening.
It was the last thing I remember before my cousin and I barricaded ourselves in a bedroom and tried to sleep under a couple of sheets we’d found in a cupboard, whilst Dad stood guard downstairs.
At 6am in the morning we caught the ferry back to Kyle of Lochlash, got back onto the train we had arrived on the previous evening and travelled all the way back to Sheffield that day.
Through all the mayhem, murder and madness we still managed to celebrate a Wednesday win.
Let’s hope we can celebrate that today against Palace. Might have to wear more layers than a pair of shorts and a swimsuit today though.