This day in football history
On 26 December 1979, Sheffield Wednesday delivered a 4–0 beatdown on rivals Sheffield United in a match that would come to be known as the Boxing Day Massacre.
The rivalry, known as the Steel City Derby, dates back to 1890 and is one of the most competitive derbies in England. At present, out of 127 competitive matches, United have a slight edge with 45 wins to Wednesday’s 42.
A Third Division record 49,309 people packed the terraces at Hillsborough as the Owls, then in 5th place, hosted first-place United. The home supporters did not need to wait long before celebrating, as left winger Terry Curran, then in his first season with Wednesday, fired the ball into the net from 25 yards out. The Blades had several chances to equalize before the break, but Wednesday keeper Bob Bolder steadfastly denied them.
United’s day took a turn for the worse when their captain Mick Speight left in the 54th minute after a goalmouth collision left him with injured ribs. Wednesday right winger Terry Curran, also in his first season at Hillsborough, made the best of the advantage by doubling the advantage with a well-placed header. He then provided an assist for the Owls’ third goal, scored by Jeff King, then drew the 87th-minute penalty that was converted by Mark Smith to cap the rout.
The match proved to be a turning point for both clubs, as Wednesday proceeded to climb the table and gain promotion to Division Two for the 1980–81 season. United, meanwhile, finished in 12th place and were relegated the following season.