Sheffield Wednesday v Barnsley, 1979
Barnsley faced Sheffield Wednesday in November 1979 on their first visit to Hillsborough in over 20 years. The previous game between the two in April 1959 ended in a 5-0 home win for Wednesday. The sides were meeting for the first time in the Third Division in the 1979-80 season – their opening-day encounter at Oakwell was won 3-0 by Wednesday. This return fixture took place in front of the Yorkshire TV cameras and a crowd of just over 23,500.
The Hillsborough clash saw a South Yorkshire reunion for three key members of Don Revie’s legendary Leeds United side – Jack Charlton and Allan Clarke as the respective managers, with Norman Hunter also featuring in the Barnsley defence. Hunter was to take over from Clarke when the latter returned to Elland Road as manager in September 1980. Charlton had enjoyed a promotion to the First Division in his first managerial job at Middlesbrough. He took charge of Sheffield Wednesday with the club at the bottom of the Third Division in October 1977, and remained at the helm until May 1983.
Clarke, scorer of Leeds’ winning goal in the 1972 FA Cup Final, left Elland Road to become player-manager at Barnsley in May 1978. He was immediately successful, guiding the Oakwell club to promotion from the Fourth Division in his first season. After his reign at Leeds ended in relegation in 1982, he had a spell managing Scunthorpe before returning to Barnsley in 1985. This second stint lasted until November 1989, with Barnsley an established Second Division side.
In 1979, Wednesday were rebuilding with young, locally-born players such as Mark Smith and fellow defenders Peter Shirtliff and Mel Sterland coming through the ranks. All three were part of the club’s rise to the First Division, with Smith staying at Hillsborough until 1987 and later playing for Barnsley in the early 1990s. Ian Porterfield, scorer of Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup-winning goal against Leeds, brought experience to the side. Porterfield took over at Rotherham shortly after this game, and later managed Sheffield United. He also had the dubious distinction of becoming the first manager to be sacked in the Premier League, while in charge of Chelsea, before coaching a number of national sides around the world.
Charlton’s teams were typically hard-working, but Wednesday’s talisman was winger Terry Curran. Signed from First Division Southampton for £100,000 in March 1979, Curran was key to the promotion side, scoring 24 goals in the season. He controversially left for Sheffield United in the summer of 1982, and was later part of Everton’s 1984-85 title-winning squad. Curran was voted into the PFA Third Division Team of the Year alongside defender Smith for the 1979-80 season.
In goal for Barnsley was Peter Springett, Wednesday’s former keeper. Springett had been involved in one of English football’s most unusual transfers when he moved to Hillsborough in 1967, with QPR swapping him for his brother Ron – himself an England international goalkeeper. Springett spent eight years with Wednesday before moving to Barnsley in 1975. In front of him, Hunter formed a formidable central defensive partnership with a young Mick McCarthy.
Clarke brought in Ronnie Glavin from Celtic ahead of the season, a goalscoring midfielder alongside Ian Banks. Both McCarthy and Banks later played in the First Division, with Manchester City and Leicester City. Another midfielder, Graham Pugh, had been part of the Sheffield Wednesday side which lost a two-goal lead in the 1966 FA Cup Final. The scorer of this game’s opening goal, Glyn Riley, later enjoyed a Wembley win with Bristol City in the 1986 Freight Rover Trophy, scoring twice. Not featuring at Hillsborough but part of the Barnsley squad was a young David Speedie.
Wednesday under Charlton had finished 14th in the Third Division in 1978-79, during which they took part in a marathon FA Cup tie with Arsenal. The following season they were promoted in third place, while Barnsley ended 11th in the table, above local rivals Sheffield United and Rotherham. With Hunter in charge, Barnsley followed Wednesday into the Second Division by winning promotion in 1980-81. The following season saw Wednesday just missing out on the top tier with a 4th-place finish, with Barnsley behind them in 6th in the table. It was Charlton’s successor, Howard Wilkinson, who brought top-flight football back to Hillsborough after a 14-year absence in 1983-84. Both Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter sadly died in 2020.
Match details for Sheffield Wednesday – Barnsley; Hillsborough, Football League Division Three, Saturday 3 November 1979:
Sheffield Wednesday: 1 Brian Cox, 2 Jeff Johnson, 3 David Grant, 4 Mark Smith, 5 Jimmy Mullen, 6 Dennis Leman, 7 Ian Fleming (sub Ian Mellor), 8 Ian Porterfield, 9 John Lowey, 10 Jeff King, 11 Terry Curran. Manager: Jack Charlton.
Barnsley: 1 Peter Springett, 2 Bobby Flavell, 3 John Collins, 4 Ronnie Glavin, 5 Norman Hunter, 6 Mick McCarthy, 7 Ian Banks, 8 Allan Clarke, 9 Glyn Riley, 10 Mike Lester, 11 Graham Pugh. Manager: Allan Clarke. Scorers: Riley, Lester
Barnsley’s defeat of their neighbours was their first win against Wednesday since February 1952 and a 5-4 victory at Oakwell in the Second Division. Their previous win at Hillsborough had come in September 1946.