Alan Biggs: Milan’s preaching stability for Owls

editorial image
0
Have your say

Milan Mandaric doesn’t do running on the spot - but the Sheffield Wednesday chief does hope to keep the running repairs to a minimum this summer.

“Stability” is the watchword as manager Dave Jones closes in on the Championship survival target.

The Owls take on Ipswich at Hillsborough on Saturday after drawing 0-0 away at Blackpool on Tuesday.

“I don’t suggest there’ll be a huge change in terms of new players,” Mandaric tells me in the second part of a candid interview with the Owls owner.

He anticipates no repeat of last summer’s major overhaul which had to be corrected in mid-season to steer the club away from danger, perhaps suggesting a good proportion of the nine out of contract will be offered new deals.

Form in the second part of the campaign has been more akin to promotion, which encourages Mandaric that the improvement needed is not vast.

“The manager is already assessing players; those who’ve contributed and those who haven’t,” he added. “We’re talking about stability and if you look at the squad, we have 18 players who are contributing.

“Then you look and think what you can add to that to correct the first part of the season. It’s been a difficult season and we all know where the mistakes were made.

“We did bring in enough players last summer - but the recruitment at that time isn’t something we can praise ourselves for.”

Currently, there are six loanees at the club, meaning Jones has to leave one out of his squad to stay within the rules. Would Mandaric like to have more permanent signings?

“It’s always better to have as many of your own players as possible,” he conceded. “Where loans are concerned, I like it to be for the season or the longer term.”

Mandaric can’t be more specific because of the financial fair play regulations that kick in next season. He accepts that football has brought the spending curb on itself, saying: “If we can’t do it ourselves, it needs some authority to control it. People here call it going into administration; I call it bankruptcy. We’re not controlling the costs.”

He repeats his faith in “the experience of our manager” and resents his reputation for hiring and firing on a whim, which has been confounded by his backing of Jones this season despite a losing run that stretched to seven matches at one stage.

“I think it’s unfair labelling me as a trigger-happy chairman,” Mandaric insists. “When I have a good manager who I get along with and we have the same agenda, I don’t like changes.”

Neither does Mandaric accept being called an “interfering” chairman. Too hands on? “Well, I am - hands on, that is,” he says from the Hillsborough office he frequents on a regular basis. “But when did you hear me telling my manager or anyone else that they need to change things?

“We need to do things properly, of course. If I see something going wrong I’ll correct it and I don’t hesitate, as you’ve seen. It’s not for my pleasure. I don’t like changes. They always bring difficulties. But sometimes you have to do it and that’s my job.

“I always say I’m in the firing line. I’m committed and also responsible to all those people who own the club. That’s the supporters. I work for them basically.

“Yet they never put pressure on me. I’m so proud to be the chairman of their club because I see other supporters - without naming anyone - who put huge pressure on their team.”

As for his own future, it won’t be dictated by a lack of enthusiasm or even advancing years. “My age depends on which day you measure it and whether we’ve won or lost the day before,” he laughs. “It goes up and it goes down.

“I always say that one day the time will come to say goodbye and the most important thing when that happens is to leave the club in good shape.

“I love England and English football. I feel good and excited about the game. If I didn’t do all these things, what is there for me?”

McCabe sticks his neck out

All credit to Chris Morgan for putting Sheffield United right on the home front and to owner Kevin McCabe for sticking his neck out.

Danny Wilson’s dismissal was a very sudden surprise when you consider the platform he left. But I wonder whether most of the reaction, whether good or bad, missed the mark.

For me, it’s not entirely a question of whether the club have done the right thing - with promotion the only real justification. I just wonder whether there is a vacuum to be filled inside Bramall Lane when it comes to the day-to-day football business. Rightly or wrongly, that is my impression looking in from outside.

As ever, McCabe will have acted with the best of intentions when he replaced an experienced manager with a novice for the climax to the season.

As ever, too, he carries the burden of the club’s hopes and dreams. Acting swiftly and decisively comes with that territory. He has never shirked tough or unpopular decisions, which again is for the better.

It’s also by the nature of his global property empire that McCabe has to spend large chunks of time away from Sheffield and out of the country. He wasn’t at the home defeat to Crawley that triggered Wilson’s demise but acted the next day, presumably on the advice of other directors and his own instincts.

McCabe always carries a confidence and a conviction that he is doing the right thing, another strength even if some of his decision-making on the management has been seen to be flawed in recent years.

But, for understandable reasons too, he has become a more remote figure. McCabe has taken a step back and would like to step away further. His quest for investment is aimed in that direction and he deserves a sharing of the load.

Yet, for the time being and the foreseeable future, it seems all major decision-making has to go through him. This, you imagine, would include routine football matters - contracts, transfers, bids in or out for players - that occur regularly throughout a season.

There seemed to be some underlying tension on the recruitment front this season and the Nick Blackman fee was not obviously reinvested, nor was the top marksman replaced with a goalscorer of the calibre of Bradley Wright-Phillips, a rumoured Wilson target who hit Brentford’s late leveller on Tuesday.

All of this would normally occupy a chief executive, acting alongside a manager, and United have been without one since their brief associations with Trevor Birch and Julian Winter. CEOs can also set the media agenda of a club on topical issues.

The Blades appear well staffed. But do they need more steerage in McCabe’s absence? Does he need to put in a football executive who can act with his total trust? Have managers lacked a support system since the days of the late, great Derek Dooley?

Meanwhile, there is nothing fair in life - so why should we expect anything of the like from football. Wilson’s sacking was harsh. It would be difficult to argue otherwise.

When you consider he took the club to the play-off final last season, Wilson has certainly not failed and he could well have succeeded, regardless of the sterile home form that cost him his job. The tragedy for him and assistant Frank Barlow is that we will never know.

As an inspirational former skipper who has the leadership qualities for management, Morgan deserves everyone’s support and he has certainly made an impact. But you wonder whether there will be an overhaul of United’s football operation next season whoever lands the job.