I’ve been trying to write this blog for the past week but with changing circumstances at Hillsborough it’s been difficult to keep it current. This blog is a mixture of my thoughts from the week leading up to the dismissal of Dave Jones, the aftermath of the sacking, and where we go from here. Throw in a shock 2-1 win over league leaders Leicester City and there is a lot to discuss.
Before Jones was sacked, I was struggling to understand how we have ended up in our current predicament. Where are Sheffield Wednesday as a club at this time? People talk about the progress made by clubs such as Swansea, West Brom and Southampton. All have a stable structure in place and are exceeding expectation. We simply can’t replicate their models with the uncertainty that surrounds the future ownership of the club.
People can talk about our history and heritage. Many remember fondly great times in the early nineties, when some of the best players in the country graced S6. It’s going to take something drastic for those days to ever return, and would probably incorporate a sacrifice of our traditions like Hull City (can I call them that?) or Cardiff. One of the most difficult things to swallow it that we are currently a yoyo club flitting between the Championship and League One.
Moving on to the events of the weekend, you would think being a Sheffield Wednesday fan I would be used to the revolving managerial door. I admit, I am probably at one extreme where I can always find a reason not to sack a manager. I hate the way the football society puts pressure on managers as if sacking them is the only way to resolve an issue. Sometimes it might be, but more often than not it’s a short term fix and doesn’t address the root of the problem. Some clubs could change the manager every year and with their set up wouldn’t see a major impact. We are not one of those clubs.
Saying all that, and even though I defended Dave Jones and have argued against his dismissal, I believe Milan Mandaric had little other choice following our defeat at Blackpool. The lack of wins was the telling factor in Milan relieving Dave Jones of his duties. He admitted it was a decision he didn’t want to take after developing a strong personal and professional relationship with the manager. Whilst I would like a long term plan, our chairman understandably needs to think about the immediate future and his investment.
This latest sacking left me feeling pretty down beat. We owe a lot to Dave Jones. He’s set up some good foundations in terms of scouting and the academy. Some people say he took us up with Megson’s team. That Megson team was stuttering. I don’t believe we would have won automatic promotion the way we did had Dave Jones not been our manager. Despite the fact that it was ‘only’ League One, the culmination to 2011/12 season and pipping our bitter rivals to promotion will live long in the memory of all who support the club.
People talk about Jones’ lack of passion. It’s the lack of results that counted against him. My only criticism of him in light of his sacking, is I think he could and should have taken more responsibility when things weren’t going well. The team that beat Leicester City 2-1 on Tuesday was his team. Giles Coke was the only player to start the game that Jones hadn’t brought to the club, along with academy graduate Liam Palmer.
One thing we can’t argue is that Dave Jones could attract top players. I worry that we may not bring in the calibre of players such as Matty Fryatt, Roger Johnson and Connor Wickham in future. I’m just relieved the latter will be with us until the New Year. He was unplayable in our latest victory.
Few would have put money on us beating Leicester, but was anyone really surprised? There is often a spike in form when a manager is fired. After five minutes I thought we were going to get hammered, but Connor Wickham’s goal lifted the whole place and the players showed some character. It always amazes me how much more a team fights and battles under these circumstances. Where was that effort and commitment in dire performances against Derby County and Huddersfield? Confidence was probably a factor in those games, and you can rightly blame the manager, but the players must shoulder much of the blame. Those players need to work hard to get us out of the mess we are in.
We now have the usual speculation about who the next new manager will be. As fans we will never agree who is the right man for the job. Going back to what I said earlier, we have to remember where the club is and be realistic in who we can bring in. I would definitely question us poaching a manager from another club.
We don’t have much money, and there are enough proven managers out of work to choose from. There are rumoured loans taken out against Hillsborough Stadium. You look down the M1 at the difficulties Coventry fans have had with their stadium and we don’t want to end up in that situation. I perish the thought of having to play at Bramall Lane, which unfortunately leads me onto one of the candidates to be our next manager.
Neil Warnock is a proven Championship manager with numerous promotions on his CV and arguably the best candidate for the job. I’m not bothered about comments he made about the club in the past as I believe that if he was our manager he would work hard and do his best to be a success.
Despite this, I really do not want him to be our manager. I don’t particularly like the man from his time in charge of our rivals. I feel that somehow he wants to lord it over us. It would take a great deal for him to get the majority of fans on side, me included. I think some people would never accept him. I would never boo him, however if things weren’t working, it wouldn’t take long for people to turn on him.
I do think that any appointment should be a short term one as Milan is actively trying to sell the club. We ought not to give a manager a two or three year contract. If we know it’s a temporary manager with the aim of keeping us up, it might allow us to plan long term if and when any takeover happens. Ultimately, if Milan Mandaric wants Neil Warnock to manage us and Warnock is willing to accept the challenge, I have no doubt that he will be put in place. Milan showed that he is not overly swayed by fan opinion in the way he sacked Megson and kept Jones as long as he did.
Personally, I don’t see the rush to appoint. I’d let Stuart Gray and Lee Bullen have a bit of time until we find the right person. That may be days, that may be weeks, but we had a good manager and he couldn’t get the best out of this squad. There are no guarantees that a new boss will keep us up. We face a massive challenge in maintaining our championship status, which is essential, as I don’t think anyone has the appetite for a return to league one.
Up the Owls.
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl