A week can be a long time in football. For once the rumours and rumblings have led to something more concrete and the takeover of Sheffield Wednesday looks well on the way to completion. It’s nice to be able to sit and write about my club when the future looks bright. Subject to Football League ratification, it seems we now have owners who have the finance and drive to take the club forward. The past seven days have indicated that times are changing.
The 2nd of February 2015 was the first time The Owls have played an active role in any transfer deadline day as far as I can remember. Other than waiting for the odd loan deal our experience is very different to the clubs spending £50 million pound on a striker or having the Sky cameras stationed outside the training ground. On a much smaller scale we can draw comparisons to what happened at Manchester City in 2008; which arguably kicked off the whole transfer deadline furore. Sheikh Mansour took over at the Etihad Stadium and splashed the cash; sparking a transfer scramble we hadn’t seen before. As a championship club we were able to quietly do our business and brought in largely unknown and untried players using the money from our new owner. Time will tell over whether those brought in are going to add some much needed quality to the team.
One thing that concerns me about with the takeover is the expectation. Some fans presume we will splash the clash but that might not be the answer. Hopefully enough will keep some perspective. It’s worth drawing parallels with Leicester City who were taken over by Thai owners via Milan Mandaric. Initially they went big; Sven-Göran Eriksson took over as manager and they signed high profile Premier League players on huge wages. It transpired that some of the signings were mercenaries and it did not have the required instant impact. Following this Leicester did continue to buy players but in a much more measured way and built a team that eventually won promotion. They also kept faith with Nigel Pearson despite his dismissal seeming inevitable after failing in the play offs. We need to develop a squad and build on our progress this season. I’m optimistic that we are bringing in young players hungry for success in English football. That was one of the key factors in our play off promotion in 2005 so we can hope ten years on a new impetuous can come from talented prospects.
Having made the trip to the Etihad twice this season, it’s clear how far we have fallen behind the elite Premier League teams. Fifteen years away and counting means our world is very different to that of the cream of English football. The bottom line for any club is a team performing well and winning games, but the match day experience can enhance a club. In particular for families, some additions would make the day more enjoyable. Then there is the stadium. Hillsborough is in need of some renovation, if the intention is to stay there. I would like to see development in this area which has been static in recent years.
The fickle nature of football means that Stuart Gray is now under increased pressure. He’s worked wonders with the resources available to him. I’ve admitted before that I didn’t particularly want him as manager when he was first appointed but he’s certainly won me round. I hope he is given the same opportunity as someone like Nigel Pearson and other supporters will stick with him. Let’s not expect to be world beaters following the takeover. Gray will need to integrate the new players into the team; and the Hillsborough pitch is another hurdle to overcome. Our defence has been immense and the biggest success from the transfer window was retaining Keiren Westwood and Tom Lees. We can hopefully offer them improved deals to remain with the club which would be a massive boost if we want to make a promotion challenge. Our defence is pretty solid and gives us a sound platform to build the team. We just need goals. We have been so goal starved at home it is now beyond a joke. To be in the position we are with the figure in our goals for column is pretty startling.
One thing that has disappointed me in recent weeks is the treatment of Michail Antonio. I can understand the pantomime booing and I’m not one for cheering former players during a game or when they come on, but I for one will not forget the contribution he made to our recent history. It might only have been League One, but that battle with our cross city rivals was epic and will always be one of my cherished moments in supporting my club. He was pivotal in that success. Short term memory seems to be an unfortunate trait of modern football and if Frank Lampard can be booed by Chelsea then what hope do other players have. I still appreciate his efforts for the club. I also don’t think Stuart Gray was particularly desperate to keep him, which may have been a big factor in his move.
So we will bid farewell to Milan Mandaric over the coming weeks and welcome Dejphon Chansiri to S6. Mr Mandaric saved our club when it was on its knees. He hasn’t spent a fortune as some would have liked, but he kept us going and was always clear what his intentions were. As well as promotion, he brought in Gary Megson and then upset many fans sacking him days after a crucial derby victory. He’s another man that will go down in Sheffield Wednesday’s history in a positive way and I’m sure as fans we will show our appreciation.
We can look to the future and hope the Mr Chansiri will bring success back to Hillsborough. His links to fish production has given our neighbours something to carp on about, yet I feel that most of us are embracing the tuna!
The coming months should be interesting in the north of Sheffield…
Up the Owls!
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl