The madness of Lisa’s Coaches – the true Sheffield Wednesday superstars tell whirlwind story
Lisa Butterworth says she’s lived a fairly peaceful life. A life not spent in the spotlight or attracting the attention of thousands. That was until the last couple of weeks.
It started on a quiet May morning. For Lisa, a courier from Beighton, the idea had struck after Sheffield Wednesday’s qualification for the League One play-offs to do something she’d never done before; to organise a coach for friends, family and those who drink in The Fox on Robin Lane.
In the event of Wednesday getting through the semi-final stage, they were going to Wembley en masse. Together.
From small acorns, as they say. A hurried call to her IT-savvy pal Emma Thompson and a request to design a poster advertising spots on the bus. The poster hung on the walls of the pub for a few days and the seats slowly began to fill up – provisionally – with the names of hopeful Wednesdayites keen to secure their spot.
‘SWFC Play-Off Final Wembley – Coach from Fox – Call Lisa to book a seat – 07834 218301’
In her haste, Emma had forgotten a vital element in the wording of her poster; that the booking of the coach was provisional.
But for days, perfect peace, phonecalls from only drinking buddies genuinely enquiring about seats on the bus. Fast-forward to a pub refurb, the camera phone of what is presumed to be a Blades-supporting builder and Lisa woke up one morning with her phone buzzing off the hook.
The image had made it on to social media.
“The builders went in at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Lisa told The Star, able to see the funny side a couple of weeks on.
“By 8am I was getting tonnes and tonnes of text messages about the coach. I thought ‘What’s going on here?’”
Curious, Lisa set about replying to the enquiries as if they were genuine, until a polite reply came asking where the bus was due to pick up its passengers.
‘Would you mind picking up from London Road or Peterborough Wetherspoons?’ Came the response.
Ah. Lisa quickly checked a Facebook page that facilitates banter between Owls and Blades fans and was immediately met with a photo of her poster. It was the day of Wednesday’s first leg clash at Peterborough United – a game shown live on Sky Sports that the Owls of course lost 4-0.
By then the image had sprouted far beyond the confides of Sheffield-based Facebook groups and was all over the football banter groups of social media.
“It just exploded,” Lisa said. “By the end of the day my phone was hotter than the sun – and then the game started.
“I was trying to watch the game and my partner – a Blade – was answering the phone. We had calls from Peterborough fans, Barnsley fans, Rotherham, Blades, Ipswich, Plymouth even as far as Middlesbrough and Newcastle!
“At 4-0 down, I had to put my phone on airplane mode. By the end of the game I had over 1,500 calls, 1,500 texts, hundreds of WhatsApp messages. And that’s not counting the messages I’d had from two days before.”
She kept her phone on airplane mode for the rest of the weekend. Needless to say, as you’d perhaps expect from football fans given a sniff of one-upmanship, the ‘enquiries’ didn’t stop. On Sunday Lisa was forced into an emergency number change, a process that caused headaches at work and that she described as ‘tedious’.
“Initially I could deal with the banter,” she said. “I’ve been a football fan for 35 years and I’ve been around that world for all that time.
“Eventually it got to the point that it turned to abuse and some of it was nasty. It went too far and so I changed my number. It got aggressive.”
Emma, the designer of the poster, feels a little guilty at the omission of the word ‘provisional’, though a couple of weeks on both find the madness hilarious. On one Facebook ‘banter group’ someone posted to ask where Lisa had gone into hiding; Emma replied ‘Witness protection’.
Days passed, Wednesday grew behind the scenes and with her new number in use, Lisa’s life went back to peacefulness. With an inexplicable and absolute faith in the Blue and White Wizards, she took her old sim card to the home leg. Just in case.
What followed is of course already legend; one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all-time. At half-time they’d joked that the bus had grown two wheels – but it needed two more. It got them.
“I’ve never experienced a game like that in my life,” Lisa said. “Every emotion, we had tears at the end. We were on the pitch.”
Shuffling out of the ground with Emma and loved ones in tow, she slid her old sim card into her phone to welcome a new barrage of texts.
‘Sorry Lisa, we got it wrong,’ a couple said. ‘What a game Lisa,’ read another.
Others wanted a seat on the coach and by the time she went to bed on Thursday, full of all the emotions every Wednesdayite felt on that famous evening, Lisa placed her head on her pillow with the coach fully booked.
Emma re-designed the photo accordingly – with the words ‘Fully Booked’ emblazoned in neon lettering across the front – and joyously re-posted to the pages that had taunted them.
“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks,” Lisa said, chuckling about the circumstances of what she describes as their 15 minutes of fame. A national newspaper has been in touch and the club handed over a discounted shirt for the weekend ahead. A t-shirt design company has mocked up a smart ‘Lisa’s Coaches’ one-off and has sent the pair a few complementary garments.
“Darren Moore, all the players, they’re in history now for that performance,” she said. “It was just amazing. Our best night as Wednesdayites.
“Now hopefully they can go out and finish the job.”
On the way down to Wembley on Monday, there’ll be a 49-seater coach with windows adorned in flags with the words ‘Lisa’s Coaches’ in block capitals.
Give them a beep. They’ve earned it. All aboard.