Trevor Francis lost Wednesday the championship when he asked a proud Frenchman to stay for a second week's trial rather than signing him on

FAN'S EYE VIEW: No 132 Sheffield Wednesday Colin Cooke
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The Independent Online
A few weeks ago Marc Degryse asked Wednesday supporters to give him time to settle into the side before expecting him to produce top form. He should be assured that patience is a prime virtue in any Owls fan: last championship success, 1929-30; too good for the Second Division in the 50s but not good enough for the First - hence the sobriquet "yo-yo club"; barely escaping relegation to the lowest division in 1975-6; four appearances at Wembley in 1993 with no cup to show for it.

And then there's the 1966 FA Cup final. My daughter was snugly tucked away when disturbed by her mother's newly acquired enthusiasm for football at the World Cup final, and her father's despair at the better team losing in the domestic final after leading Everton by two goals. Even that might have been bearable had not a Cornishman scored the vital fluky goals for the other side. "When have Cornishmen played football" I asked my wife, a native of St Ives? The word football translates to rugby in that part of the world. Oh yes, Marc, we know all about patience at Hillsborough.

The dark days of 1975-6 saw defeat by Darlington in the League Cup, and Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup, rescued by victory against Southend in the last game of the season to avoid descent into the Fourth Division.

Then Jack Charlton arrived in 1977. Never mind what he has done for Ireland, Big Jack is a hero to Owls supporters for turning the tide of football failure in Sheffield 6. Combining local heroes such as Sterland and Shirtcliff with imported stars like Bannister, Megson and Shelton produced a team which was professional in attitude, never giving less than their best. With the captain, Mike Lyons, driving the younger players around him, we almost reached the old First Division before Jack decided to "go fishin'" on a more regular basis.

Howard Wilkinson fulfilled the promises made by Jack in taking us into the old First Division, and then Ron Atkinson built a fine team, albeit achieving relegation in the process, just to keep our feet on the ground, before deserting to Aston Villa. Trevor Francis lost Wednesday the championship when he asked a proud Frenchman to stay for a second week's trial rather than signing him on a well-established reputation. Look what has happened to Cantona's clubs since.

Players and managers view a club on the short timescale of their tenure, much as a government looks at a country, and often with similar, dismal results. Lifelong supporters learn to accept the slings and arrows of unfeeling fate, hoping yet scarcely believing that success will come.

David Pleat is building a new team which might bring the championship to Hillsborough in a few years' time, but whether that is in the First Division or the Premier League is in doubt at the moment. The superb performances of Degryse and Chris Waddle in the recent demolition of Leeds were a delight to behold but were inevitably followed by more insipid results, confirming the reputation for inconsistency.

It would have been nice to win a cup final at Wembley while Waddle was still in the team, and there always seemed to be a chance if only someone would beat Arsenal for us. But those upstarts at Charlton played us off the pitch, even with 10 men for much of the second half. The only consolation is that now we don't have to support the Blades in their replay against Arsenal. We can concentrate on the League and aim for a second appearance in the Intertoto cup. Europe here we come.

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