You could be forgiven for thinking Gary Megson cut a forlorn figure as he sat at home last Saturday afternoon while his beloved Sheffield Wednesday staged a promotion party at Hillsborough.
In fact, the former boss revelled in the triumph as much as any fan. And that’s because he is one.
Megson speaks with pride today about his part in the club’s turnaround and reveals:
How he changed the ethos of the dressing room to help make Wednesday winners again.
Laid down a challenge to his players as they celebrated beating Sheffield United in his last match.
Why the Owls have to look beyond even a return to the Premier League.
Although the controversy over his sacking has long been laid to rest, Megson was a subject of much sympathy among the 38,000 fans who thronged Hillsborough last weekend. But beyond admitting he was “desperate” to see the job through, he doesn’t talk or sound like a man who feels sorry for himself.
Megson didn’t follow the game last Saturday because “I knew what was going to happen.” He told the Telegraph: “I might come across as an arrogant git but I couldn’t see them not doing it.
“Some people seemed to think I would be disappointed about the club going on to win promotion. There’s no way that’s the case. First of all, it’s great for me as a supporter. And it’s great for me as the manager who brought the players in and arranged things like set-pieces.
“Dave Jones got the team over the line and did really well. I would desperately want to be still there - but not to the detriment of Sheffield Wednesday.
“And in terms of my CV as a manager, I’m also delighted. Now I’m itching to get back to work.”
Megson, who will be on the radar of clubs in the top two divisions this summer, took over a team languishing in mid-table and takes great satisfaction from his pivotal year at the helm of the club his father, Don, captained, and he went on to play for under Jack Charlton and Howard Wilkinson.
He added: “I know they wouldn’t have been promoted in the guise I found them in. . . I had to change things. One journalist has written that I was responsible for two-thirds of the points this season. But to me that’s neither here nor there.
“The big thing I changed was the ethos at the club. One of the players texted me to say thanks for getting back to being a winning club again.
“That can only be achieved with honesty, fitness, power and organisation of things like set-pieces. I also managed to bring in some really good players with very little net expenditure, including some free transfers and loans.
“They needed to get back to being the Sheffield Wednesday I knew. The difference is like chalk and cheese. It was like watching paint dry. There was no belief and everyone was looking backwards.
“People were talking about the days of the cup finals, of Waddle and Hirst. There was no thought of the here and now. We couldn’t win at home and there was talk of a phobia about playing at Hillsborough. That was ridiculous. When I left we had the best home record in the division and there is some momentum about the place. Now the club has to kick on. Yes, last Saturday was a good occasion but Sheffield Wednesday shouldn’t be in League One in the first place.
“They shouldn’t be looking at the Championship as their rightful place either. Or the lower half of the Premier League. The aim has to be the upper half of the Premiership because the gates are already there.”
Ironically, Megson sensed a major momentum swing had been achieved with victory in what proved to be his final game - the Hillsborough derby win over city rivals who had led by five points with two games in hand.
“After that game I told the players ‘if you keep playing like that you’ll finish above Sheffield United,’” he recalled. “I felt we’d been better than United in both games. I saw a team similar to the one I had at West Brom that steam-rollered everyone.
“If you look at my record, keeping Bolton up and the sides I’ve had promoted, they all finished the season strongly.”
Megson puts that down to his methods as a disciple of Howard Wilkinson - the long distance running that he maintains puts more than just stamina into a squad.
He added: “People think you do it all in pre-season but I had the players running up hills in Grenoside Woods all the way through to January. That builds character as well as fitness.
“When I did something similar at West Brom a lad I had on loan went right to the back. That told me something about him. It’s about people keeping going and not letting you down.
“Here I had players like Jose Semedo, Rob Jones and Ben Marshall - when he was here on loan - ploughing up those hills and eating them up. You know then that you have people of the right character. It’s not necessarily about the best runners. It’s about those who keep going within their ability.”
Megson himself is going through a bit of a pain barrier right now. “As I said on television this week, now I know how a surrogate mother feels - you do all the work and you’re not there for the good bit,” he said.
“But such is life. It happens. The end of February is not a good time to lose your job and I don’t know what’s around the corner.
“But I’ve been successful in the Premiership, the Championship and League One, so I’d put my CV up against anybody’s.”
Apart from getting back to work, Megson’s other immediate wish is to see both Sheffield clubs in the second tier next season. And not only because of his friendship with Blades boss Danny Wilson and his assistant Frank Barlow.
“I’m good mates with them but above all Sheffield needs somebody in the Premier League,” Megson insisted. “As a Wednesdayite it’s got to be Wednesday for me. But the big thing I wanted was to go head-to-head with Sheffield United. I really enjoyed that.
“Now that Wednesday are up, I’d love it if Sheffield United go up as well. This is the best city in the country for me, so I hope they go on and do it.”