A farewell to Frank
There were few better days out than when a Wednesday win was followed by Frank White belting some tunes out

Early yesterday morning my phone dinged with a new text. It said simply "Did you know Frank White has passed?" Up until then I didn’t, and like so many people I was massively sad to hear the news.

So, why is a little tribute to a local legend turning up on a Wednesday fanzine site? Because for me – and quite a few other people – days out watching Wednesday and Frank’s performances were sometimes closely linked. Some of my favourite memories of watching Frank are as part of an unwise but irresistible decision to extend post-match drinking sessions late into the night because Frank was appearing in the Barracks.

During his heyday Frank was a regular performer everywhere in Sheffield and The Barracks was no exception. Going back to the days of James Birkett and right through to Kev and Steph’s current tenure Mr White was a semi-regular Saturday night fixture. With Frank you not only got a stormingly good rock and blues player, you also got a proper character who was part of a family of Sheffield musicians.

One night in particular stands out, although I can’t be absolutely certain of the exact match it was after. I know it was after a particularly unlikely victory against Man U (we used to get a few of them in the 90s) and based on my memory of where I was living at the time I reckon it was in March 1998 after a 2-0 win with Biffa Atherton and Di Canio scoring. The highest home crowd of the season – just shy of 39,500 - were there and when you recall that Man U missed out on the title to Arsenal by just one point and Wednesday finished 16th you have some feeling for what a good (and unexpected) day it was.

Then as now we all headed back to the New Barrack Tavern and began to work our way through significant quantities of very dark beer. We’re all a bit older now and these days we tend to put the odd weaker brew in to keep us all a bit level but on that occasion, buoyed by the glory of the day, we ploughed on with the good stuff. As is usually the case, the band due to play that night began to bring their equipment in and setting up, and fairly quickly it became apparent that The Frank White Band were on. But at that point we were still all planning on heading home.

It was the soundcheck that started the slippery slope. Frank got out that trusty white Strat and they kicked through a number. In my head it may have been “One night with you” but that may be a bit of misty-eyed fabrication. Whatever he did it was enough for us to relocate to the back wall facing the stage muttering the fateful words “shall we just stop and watch the first half?” To cut a long story short this was followed in short order by “we might as well stay for the second half, eh?” and I still have a vivid memory of bawling along for all we were worth as Frank stormed through that second set.

It has become the stuff of legend that we still talk about to this day but the consensus is that we slopped down 11 of those strong dark pints during the course of that long, glorious evening (not big or clever kids – probably don’t try it at home).

I don’t remember much of the twilight end of that evening but I do have one very vivid memory which is of me stood on the pavement of Penistone Road, knowing I only had about half a mile to walk home. My brain was saying to my feet “walk” and my feet just replied “nope”. In the end I eventually must have managed to comedy walk the short journey home.

The last time I saw Frank at the Barracks was during the European Championships before last; I saw him but didn’t hear him because that was the night he tripped getting onto the stage, cut his head open on the bass drum and had to go to A&E (famously returning at midnight and asking what had happened to the pint he had half supped).

So, as I say, although I saw him a few times in a non-swfc context, for me there will always be a link between watching Wednesday and watching Frank White. There is a particular sadness that Frank passed whilst the football season – and indeed the world - is on hold. But we’ll always have our memories, and once we can get back in the Barracks we will on each matchday raise a glass to that picture on the wall of Frank in full-on cranking-it-out mode. He will be so sadly missed and we send condolences, love and best wishes to his family and friends. RIP Frank.

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