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Sky Bet Play-Offs: "I will cry if we win" - Jon McClure talks Play-Offs

27 May 2016

Jon McClure is Sheffield. Born and bred in the Steel City, when he's not recording career-best albums like Mirrors, as the front man of Reverend and The Makers, he's at Hillsborough.

A lifelong Sheffield Wednesday season ticket holder, he will be among the 38,889 blue and white supporters making the pilgrimage to Wembley on Saturday for the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final against Hull City.

We caught up with Jon ahead of the final to talk about all sorts, including his love for Barry Bannan, the passion for football in the Steel City, his experiences of bus toilets, and a gorilla mask...

Before we talk football, how are things with you?

Very good; very good indeed. Creatively I feel good and the band is in a good place. And, of course, Sheffield Wednesday are in a good place!

It's been quite a season for the club hasn't it?

Absolutely. Being a season ticket holder I've been to the majority of the home matches, and some of the away ones too. It's been a pleasure to watch. We've watched some rubbish over the years but now we're starting to go in the right direction.

What has your favourite moment of this season been?

The Play-Off Semi-Final first leg at home to Brighton really stirred the emotions. Women in their 60s and 70s said they couldn't recall Hillsborough having such an atmosphere, and the light show would stir the coldest of hearts – it was beautiful!  That first leg was the one of the best moments I've ever had in football. I couldn't enjoy the second leg, though. They were pounding us.

There has been some great moments throughout. Rotherham away was a good moment; as was Cardiff when we won 3-0 and sealed a Play-Off spot – that was a bit of a game.

Carlos Carvalhal – do you love the guy?

I absolutely love him. When he first came, being honest, I'd never heard of him. I think the vast majority of Wednesday fans had never heard of him. I was a bit like, 'really?'. But I'm prepared to eat my words because he's totally transformed the club and the playing style. When he talks about football he's interesting and he's quite humorous, with a certain charm about him.

A bit of credit has to go to club legend Lee Bullen. He was doing sort of that Ryan Giggs role, being aware of the club's traditions, and I think he has been good for Carvalhal because he seems to have helped him understand what Sheffield Wednesday is all about.

Long may it continue!

The team also has character, doesn't it?

It has plenty of character. When we scored the first goal against Brighton, Fernando Forestieri ran over to Ross Wallace and said, 'it's offside!' – it wasn't, he was just making a joke in the highest moment of pressure. I think that says everything you need to know. They're calm, they're all together and there's a great team spirit. It also showed with the celebrations after the match at Brighton, on each other's shoulders.

I love Barry Bannan, me. He's the guvnor of our team. He runs it. You see him on the pitch and he's telling them what to do. Obviously there's Forestieri – we've not had a player that good in 20-odd years – but I love Bannan. And he follows me on Twitter, I've got to love him.

Would you say the top flight is where Sheffield Wednesday belong?

This isn't to take anything away from Brighton, Derby or Hull – they're all great clubs in their own right and I'm not saying Wednesday are more deserving of top-flight football than others, I just believe it's a massive club. We are probably in the top 10 best supported clubs in the country and we've been out of the top flight for 20-odd years – we've not been any good for 20 years. This is a club that had 38,000 and sold its ground out in League 1 on the last day of the season. And that day, Sheffield United also had 30,000. That's 68,000 football fans in one city.

A city of Sheffield's size – a football-obsessed city – deserves a Premier League team. A lot of kids who are 21, 22 or 23 can't remember us being any good. All they can remember is misery when it comes to football, but they still come in their thousands. That's powerful.

If we go up, I'll cry. But if we don't, I'm philosophical about it. I think Hull are a good side; probably a Premier League side if I'm honest, and we'd go again. But it would be great.

What dark days from the last 20 years stand out for you?

Rochdale away, it rained, and it was 0-0. We also played Leyton Orient at home in League 1 about five years ago and it was 0-0 – I've never seen a worse game of football, including Sunday League. It was that bad. I'd done Football Focus that morning and Wednesday had about eight hours to save themselves from administration and I just thought, 'I don't think we can get any lower than this'.

To see this amazing ride now is unreal. Credit has to go to the chairman [Dejphon Chansiri]. He seems bang on. Everything he does is wonderful and he's very approachable. We sing a song that says we're on our way back, and it does feel like we are.

It's a big weekend for Yorkshire in general, with Barnsley in the Sky Bet League 1 Play-Off Final...

Yeah, I like Barnsley. They don't like us because you never like a bigger club, but I like Barnsley. I think Barnsley is a good town with a lot of soul. I would like to see them go up. It's a shame we have to play Hull because I'd like to see them go up, too. If they do beat us, so be it, because I like Hull – it's a good city.

What are your feelings ahead of the weekend?

It's all I can think about. It has taken over my life. The other day, my brother and I went down to the ground and sneaked in with my little lad who is 18 months old to take a picture on the pitch. I'm obsessed.

I had a chance to go in the box at Wembley but I was like, 'naaaaah'. I've sat with the fans all season. It would be a bit like going to sit in first class when all your family is in economy. You wouldn't do it, would you? I want to be in with the atmosphere. I'm just behind the goal to the left – if we get a goal it's going to be carnage.

When was your last visit to Wembley?

1993. I've got a photograph of us at Wembley and I've got a gorilla mask on. I was 11 or 12, and my brother was seven. We played Arsenal in the FA Cup Final but we didn't go to the replay [Wednesday drew 1-1 with the Gunners forcing a replay]. We'd already been that season because we went to watch us play Sheffield United in the semi-final. If you'd have told us that we would have had a 23-year hiatus between then and now we'd have been devastated.

23 years ago this month. Wemberrrrley. I'm the idiot in the Gorilla mask . I was 12 to be fair

— Reverend&TheMakers (@Reverend_Makers) May 19, 2016

What are your overriding memories from those trips to Wembley?

Trying to go to the toilet on the coach that was moving as a little lad, and failing miserably. It's not easy. That was about the time when toilets on coaches became the thing.

What's your plan for this weekend? Any gorilla masks?

No gorilla masks this year, I'm going to dress normally. I've got a few interviews to do and then I'm just going to enjoy the match.

How would you celebrate if they won?

If we win I will cry and cuddle my brother. There's our Tom who goes, home and away, he works on the bins. He's a big, big football man and deserves this. Him and my brother Chris have been to some right places. Reading away on a Tuesday night when it snowed – that sort of thing.

If we win I'll enjoy it with them. The look on their faces will be good enough for me. I love them to bits.

What's your score prediction for the final?

I don't want to make a prediction, although my little lad the other day, in his own limited linguistic way, said 1-0 Wednesday. Who am I to argue with the little fella?

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