A year to remember – Thanks Milan

A year to remember – Thanks Milan

Twelve months ago Milan Mandaric saved Sheffield Wednesday from the abyss.

In November 2010 Wednesday came perilously close to going into administration which would have represented rock bottom in a proud 144-year history.

Who knows what Mandarić’s intentions were when he shelled out £7million to the Cooperative Bank to take control of the ailing club.

An opportunity for the 73-year-old to make a quick buck before retirement by getting a sleeping giant back into the Championship at the first time of tasking?

Whatever his intentions back then, it strikes me that – a year later – the Serbian businessman has fallen in love with this football club.

Certainly if Mandarić expected an instant return to the Championship then he was sorely mistaken.

Milan says hello to Hillsborough

Three days before Mandarić took over last December he watched on as Wednesday were involved in an eight-goal thriller against Bristol Rovers which took them second in the league table.

A year later?

Well we all know what happened in an extraordinary 97 minutes against Huddersfield.

So technically we’re exactly where we were this time last year. But 2011 has been a typically eventful year for this football club.

A week after putting six past Bristol Rovers, Wednesday were brought back down to earth as they were thumped 5-1 at an icy St James’ Park.

Six weeks – and no league wins – later and Alan Irvine’s Hillsborough tenure was over after a 5-3 reverse at Peterborough.

Having backed Irvine in the January transfer window, no-one will have been more reluctant to let a good man go than the new chairman.

But Mandarić is not a man to let goodwill come before business. And who knows where Wednesday might be now if Irvine hadn’t been replaced when he was.

Megson hardly had a dream start

Gary Megson came in dreaming of the playoffs – twelve games into his tenure the Owls were just four points off the drop zone after a humbling 3-1 defeat to Brentford.

Megson admits he underestimated the challenge he faced. He told the Daily Mail recently: “Last season I got carried away when I came back and said we could still make the top six. After 45 minutes I knew it was more like the bottom six.”


Thankfully Wednesday avoided the unthinkable of dropping into the bottom tier.

But the jury was still out on Megson – who had made Wednesday more solid but hardly crowd-pleasing.

If the January transfer window had gone wrong for Irvine then Megson knew he had to get his summer signings right. Again Mandarić backed his man.

Marshall has been a revelation

Out went the likes of Tommy Miller, Gary Teale, Darren Potter and Tommy Spurr. In came Julian Bennett, Jose Semedo, Chris O’Grady, Chris Lines and exciting young winger Ben Marshall on loan from Stoke.

Early away defeats at Bournemouth and Bury then persuaded Mandarić to fork out a six-figure sum for Ryan Lowe.

Off-the-pitch, things were finally looking steady at Hillsborough. On the pitch another low was to come when Wednesday were hammered 5-1 by Stevenage in September.

It’s still early days but Wednesdayites may look back at that night as the turning point in the season or even the Megson reign.

Since then the Owls have lost just one game, winning 11 of the other 15.

Smiles are back on the faces of supporters and 28,600 turned up for the 4-4 mayhem on Saturday.

Fans paid tribute to Mandarić with a 28-metre banner at Oldham. Mandarić paid tribute to the fans, thanking them for the touching gesture.

“I asked our supporters to put their trust in me and I have been truly touched by their warmth and humility,” said Milan last week.

“I have so much appreciation of their loyalty, of how much they care for their club, how they stood by Sheffield Wednesday through such difficult times.

“This gives me the desire and enthusiasm to turn this big ship around.”

The love-in may not continue if success on the pitch fades as it did last season.

But with Mandarić once again prepared to put his hand his pocket – he says he may have spent £20million on Sheffield Wednesday by the end of January – it won’t be for want of trying.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hope and expectation of a promotion chase.

But lest we forget that if it wasn’t for Milan Mandarić then our football club as we know it might not have survived into 2012.

Thanks Milan.

Owls Alive
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