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New Money, New Manager

Monday 15th June 2015
On the 29th January, Sheffield Wednesday fans were given the prize that they had waited many years for - a takeover by a wealthy owner, with Premier League ambitions.

Like many Championship clubs, the gap between mid-table mediocrity and dining at the top table of English football seems just a cash injection away. But, invariably, a new owner brings new ideas and at Hillsborough the Head Coach has been first to fall.

After Milan Mandaric bought the Owls back in 2010 for just £1 (one pound), they were saved from certain administration and possible extinction. Promotion followed in his first full season as Chairman and Wednesday were once again established as a second division side before the arrival of Dejphon Chansiri earlier this year.

Chansiri is a name well renowned in the business world as the family in control of the largest seafood producer on the planet, the Thai Union Group. The new Chairman did not take long to build expectations as, in his first press conference, he made the fans “the same promise as I made to my son” that Wednesday would reach the top flight within two seasons. Plans for a brand new pitch, scoreboard and ground improvements were promptly announced and initial season ticket sales greatly exceeded that of recent times.

By his own admission, Chansiri is not familiar with the inner workings of a football club so he sought experience by way of forming a Sporting Director Committee. Stuart Gray would be working alongside Adam Pearson, Glenn Roeder and Paul Senior, three other men who have spent the most part of their career within the sport. In principle, the Committee seemed an astute move to give direction to player recruitment and allow Gray to focus on the day to day coaching of the team. These appointments also removed any question that the new Chairman may want to dabble in first team affairs.

A small setback came in the departure of Pearson to Leeds United, his home town Club, but the void was quickly filled by ex-Manchester United academy coach Jonathan Hill.

Come the end of the season, Wednesday finished 13th place in the Championship having flirted with the top six in the early part of the year and taken points from promotion chasing teams in the final games. Highly respectable for one of the lowest wage budgets in the division. The feeling among supporters was that, with the right additions and looking at the clubs who managed to secure a Play Off place, a top six finish could be achieved. No huge overhaul or turnover of players required, but quality signings for the Head Coach to work with.

The overhaul has arrived, but not as the majority of fans were expecting. Stuart Gray was sacked from his position nearly six weeks after the final game of the regular season. A dignified and honest man, Gray had taken a team bound for relegation and offered stability when the odds were largely stacked against him. Rumours were rife that Gray had become increasingly frustrated at his lack of involvement in transfer policy and had walked out of a Committee meeting days before his departure. Not many can argue that he had deserved more respect than his quick fire axing allowed, but most have been left puzzled by the candidates linked with the job since.

Odds on favourite, Carlos Carvalhal, is a name that has left even the most avid of football followers in the dark. Having taken on fourteen different managerial roles in just twelve years throughout Europe, he has yet to establish himself at any club. Remarkably however, stories have arisen that Carvalhal comes on the recommendation of both Jorge Mendes, football's “super-agent” and Jose Mourihno after Dejphon Chansiri sought their counsel on potential candidates.

Whether names such as Sam Allardyce and Paul Lambert were ever seriously in the running remains in doubt, as you feel the odds were dictated initially by those with big reputations who are currently out of work. Local rumour suggested that former Italian strike force Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone would partner each other in the dugout, but surely that would only provide bags of style without much substance.

After the initial shock of an unknown quantity being linked with the job, the question has to be asked, are the Owls hierarchy heading down the right path? The direction of appointing a coach who deals purely with what happens on the training pitch and at 3pm on a Saturday has been tried before, with little in the way of success. Andre Villas Boas famously remarked that he did not know which new players would be reporting for training following the £100 million pound spending spree of Tottenham in the wake of selling Gareth Bale. AVB left later that season. Closer to Wednesday's current level, Leeds have recycled coach after coach under the cavalier leadership of Massimo Cellino. Watford recently found glory in reaching the top flight after having five different Manager's since 2012 – they have even changed again, months before heading into the Premier League.

The process of other members of staff being decisive in key areas like player recruitment appears to give rise to a high turnover of players and makes the Head Coach seem dispensable. Can this ever form the basis for long term success?

What the supporters of Sheffield Wednesday will hope is that the Sporting Committee allows for the new Head Coach to build a team in his identity, and not be pushed towards a revolving door without a voice.
James Dean
A lover of football. Season ticket holder at Sheffield Wednesday and known as the "Andrea Pirlo of the North".

Total articles: 24

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