Sidelines: Owls in flight to Elland Road

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The Independent Online
Six years ago this month, a refugee from French football justice made a bizarre debut as a Sheffield Wednesday trialist in an indoor exhibition match against Baltimore Blast. Within days, Eric Cantona had pitched up at Leeds United en route to the first of three successive championship medals.

Howard Wilkinson, then Leeds' manager, was Sheffield-born, bred and buttered. He had played and managed at Wednesday, and surrounded himself with ex- Hillsborough men. On relocating to West Yorkshire, he inherited John Pearson and Glynn Snodin, and soon added Carl Shutt, Chris Turner (on loan), Mel Sterland, Dylan Kerr, Lee Chapman, Imre Varadi, David Wetherall, Jon Newsome and even a youth player, Andrew Quinn.

Wilkinson famously lost Cantona, and raiding Wednesday again for Carlton Palmer and Nigel Worthington was viewed by many as proof that he had also lost the plot. When the clubs meet today, Wetherall and Newsome (now back in the visitors' stripes) will provide the only link with Leeds' title success apart from Rod Wallace.

Paul Hart, John Sheridan and Jack Charlton all served Wednesday after Leeds, but remarkably it is 70 years since the Owls' last signing from Elland Road, Aaron Baker. Around the same time, Leeds allowed Jack Allen to join Brentford after two outings. He went on, a la Cantona, to smash 66 goals in Wednesday's championship triumphs of 1929 and '30.