Mel Sterland

Mel Sterland

Mel is a former professional footballer who played for Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United and in the Scottish Football League Premier Division for Rangers, and was capped once for England.

Mel’s career is distinctly in two parts: 10 successful years with Sheffield Wednesday and 4 equally successful years with Leeds United split by 4 months at Rangers.

In 1988, he won his only England cap in a friendly against Saudi Arabia. Earlier in his career he had helped England win the 1984 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, in which he scored a goal in the final against Spain. At the time of his England cap in 1988, he was the first Sheffield Wednesday player to be capped by England since the 1960s.

An energetic, dynamic right back, Mel’s powerful shooting earned him the nickname ‘Zico’ – after the Brazilian star – and his attacking prowess saw him strike 49 goals for Sheffield Wednesday, many from set-pieces. His surges down the right flank and deliveries into the box often created goals for his teammates and he was also known for his lengthy throw-ins. He signed for Sheffield Wednesday on leaving school in the summer of 1978 and played in the final two games of their 1978-79 Third Division campaign, scoring on his second appearance.

In 1981-82, when the Owls emerged as promotion challengers but were eventually beaten out of the top three, Mel was selected in the league on 27 occasions. He remained a regular player as the Owls continued to progress, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals in 1983 and winning promotion to the First Division a year later after a 14-year exile. In 1985-86 he enjoyed arguably the finest season of his time at Sheffield Wednesday, if not his whole career, when he played 38 league games and scored eight goals for a side who finished fifth in the First Division but were denied UEFA Cup action due to the ban on English clubs in European competitions following the Heysel disaster of May 1985.

By the time he was sold to Glasgow Rangers for £800,000 in March 1989, Mel had played 347 games for Sheffield Wednesday and scored 49 goals. His three goals in nine games helped a Rangers side managed by Graeme Souness win their second Scottish league title in three seasons, and their 39th overall.

However, on 1 July 1989 Mel returned to England when he linked up with his former Sheffield Wednesday manager Howard Wilkinson at Leeds United as he built a side geared for promotion. Mel became an immediate favourite with the Elland Road fans as his five goals in 42 league games that season sealed Leeds the Second Division title and promotion back to the First Division after eight years away. He helped Leeds make an immediate impact on their return to the top flight as they finished fourth – though this was slightly soured by the fact that although the ban on English clubs in Europe had now been lifted, Leeds were unable to compete in the UEFA Cup as English clubs were only being gradually phased back into the competition with just runners-up Liverpool being admitted for the 1991-92 competition.

Mel was a key player in Leeds United’s title triumph of the 1991-92 season – the last of the Football League First Division before the creation of the FA Premier League as the top division of English football – as he scored six goals in 31 league games. He played three games in the new Premier League before suffering an ankle injury in the autumn of 1992, subsequently retiring from Football.