Sheffield Wednesday: Owls’ modern ups and downs brought to book

Milan Mandaric waves to the fans before the game
Milan Mandaric waves to the fans before the game

A well-written, comprehensive account of a turbulent period in Sheffield Wednesday’s colourful history.

Tom Whitworth devoted four years of his life to writing ‘Owls: Sheffield Wednesday Through the Modern Era’.

The book is a forensic account of the highs and lows of one of English football’s great clubs.

Author Tom marvels at the genius of winger Chris Waddle and vividly recounts the 1992-93 season when Wednesday’s star-studded side visited the national stadium four times in 48 days.

Owls fan Tom tracked down some of the key personnel for interviews, including Trevor Francis, Paul Jewell, David Pleat, Dave Allen, Howard Wilkinson and Lee Strafford.

He even spoke to the Mark Lewis, the lawyer who represented the fans who the club tried to take legal action against for comments on message boards.

“I pieced together the story from a number of perspectives,” he said. “I have given a lot of people a platform.

“It’s a narrative of a long period of the club’s history which has been quite up and down.”

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You can say that again!

If the early Nineties were the glory days, what followed was a slow, steady decline.

Off the field, there was boardroom unrest, failed takeovers, winding-up petitions and on-the-brink High Court appearances.

“It was pretty grim when we were dropping through the leagues,” admitted Tom.

“We were in big debt, had a lot of change in managers and plenty of things were happening off the pitch.

“We couldn’t sign players and frankly, when we could, they weren’t as good as what we have got now. We signed players on long-term contracts and they were injured or had bad records.”

It was, by no means, all bad. The 2005 Cardiff triumph will live long in the memory. Brian Laws also led Wednesday to their first derby double against Sheffield United in 95 years.

And there was the promotion back to the Championship four years ago where they pipped the Blades to the second automatic promotion spot.

“It wasn’t all doom and gloom,” said Tom, who hails from Wadsley. “We had some good players. There were some derby wins and we had some good moments.

“There was a lot about football in the book also about Sheffield and the way the city has changed economically, socially and financially.

“It is all in there and I suppose the biggest challenge was weaving it all together.”

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He credits ex-chairman Milan Mandaric for saving the club from the threat of administration.

“I thought that was it with the High Court,” he said.

“I thought we would go into administration and that would set back us a few more years.

“When I spoke to Howard Wilkinson, he told me there were a number of tyre kickers. It seemed the club’s financial problems were so deep.

“If Milan had not taken control of the club, I’m not sure what the other options would have been. I don’t think the club would have disappeared but it would have been in a bad situation.

“When Milan bought the club, that was the start of the progress.”

Tom finished writing the book a day after Wednesday’s heart-breaking Play-Off Final defeat to Hull City last May.

He said: “Winning the Final would have been a good ending but it still ends with a positive.”

*Owls: Sheffield Wednesday Through the Modern Era is on sale now, printed by Pitch Publishing, costing £12.99.

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