Sheffield Wednesday's top 30 players - Number 8

HITC Sport's countdown of the Owls' greatest ever players continues with John Fantham

"John Fantham was to Sheffield Wednesday what Jimmy Greaves was to Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and England," wrote the Independent after Fantham's death in June 2014. He was "another dagger-through-the-heart type of hitman, a venomous roamer who popped up in all attacking areas to devastating effect."

Fantham was (and still remains) Wednesday's leading post-war scorer in their greatest post-war team.

Long before the Owls' early 1990s heyday, in which they won one League Cup, reached two more finals and finished third in the First Division, they were runners-up, regulars in the top half and competing with Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. 

Born in the Pitsmoor area of Sheffield in 1939, Fantham made his Wednesday debut while still in his teens and established himself as a regular, occupying the role of inside forward, following the club's relegation.

After helping the Owls out of the Second Division (the right way) in 1958-59, Fantham was part of Harry Catterick's side that finished fifth in the top flight the following campaign.

Only Bill Nicholson's Spurs kept the Yorkshire side's fingers off the First Division trophy in 1960-61, with Fantham's 23 goals playing a huge part in their ascent to the near-summit of English football.

Having represented England at under-23 level, Fantham earned his one and only senior cap in September 1961, with Wednesday's European giant-slaying having recently begun. Each of the aforementioned clubs were defeated by the Owls, who were eventually dumped out of the Fairs Cup by Barca after the Catalans fought back in the second leg of their quarter-final tie.

With Redfern Froggatt (148 goals) now out of the way, retired, Fantham spent the best part of the '60s chasing down both his and Andrew Wilson's (216 goals) records - thought the latter proved elusive in the end.

He was instrumental in Wednesday's run to the 1966 FA Cup final, which they somehow managed to lose 3-2 despite leading Everton 2-0 in the 57th minute. Catterick, incidentally, was in charge of the Toffees.

By then, though, the Owls' decline had set in - catalysed by the betting scandal of two years earlier, which had seen them lose key men Peter Swan and David Layne to prison sentences.

Fantham's Hillsborough career ended in 1969, when he was sold to nearby Rotherham United, and Wednesday were relegated the following year.

Sheffield Wednesday career: 1958-1969

Appearances: 434 

Goals: 166


The countdown so far:Number 30, Number 29, Number 28, Number 27, Number 26, Number 25, Number 24,Number 23, Number 22, Number 21, Number 20, Number, 19, Number 18, Number 17, Number 16,Number 15, Number 14, Number 13, Number 12, Number 11, Number 10, Number 9

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