Alan Biggs: Leader needed to take Owls forward

Alan Bigg Telegraph

Alan Bigg Telegraph

Sheffield Wednesday need their next manager – if it’s an outsider - to have natural presence and make an immediate impact.

He has to be a big personality. That is unmistakably Milan Mandaric’s criteria, which also explains why the search is problematic.

Nobody stands out as either gettable or overwhelmingly preferable. But there is a clear connection between the Roy Keane link, the Neil Warnock affair and the (somewhat puzzling) pursuit of Rotherham’s Steve Evans (who evidently wanted it). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Warnock and Evans – like Keane – are big personalities.

No disrespect to caretaker Stuart Gray but his calmer style does seem strikingly at odds with the search. Yet possession is powerful, so Gray and the ever-popular Lee Bullen – arguably a greater rallying figure – can force the issue with more results like the Leicester win.

Who else has the charisma and clout required? Keane maybe but he has been accustomed to open chequebooks and, as Ireland’s assistant manager, it would be a tricky business even if he could be persuaded to take the job, which I doubt.

Ian Holloway? Fans favourite after his promotions but is there too much previous with Mandaric from Leicester? Stuart Pearce? Possibly. But at some distance from his last club job, it would be seen as a debatable call. Alex McLeish, Blackpool’s Paul Ince, Yeovil’s Gary Johnson and Doncaster’s Paul Dickov, all characters with an edge, have also been mentioned.

But Mandaric’s preference was for a short-term firefighter, hence you know who.

Warnock is not only a big character but also box office in PR terms. The arguments that raged last week cannot be proved either way.

Yes, I backed him strongly here as it emerged that the seven-times promotion winner was Mandaric’s top choice. Yes, I upset some people by suggesting a majority of fans would have accepted the former Sheffield United boss.

Coincidentally, the club’s reading was similar. They calculated that 70 per cent would have tolerated it. Where I do apologise is in using the term “in favour.” That was wrongly put.

My 70 per cent (instinctive just like the opposition’s claims) were more of this mind: “Oh, all right, go on then, not my choice but he’s probably got the best record and if he keeps us up we’ll have him - at a push.”

Mine and the club’s 30 per cent were saying: “What?! No way, not at any price, rather go down than have that so-and-so anywhere near my club.” And that is putting it very mildly! So the stronger feelings won (with many seemingly wound up by a wind-up merchant’s bantering barbs of the past) and you can understand why both parties backed down.

Mandaric may rue not taking the plunge before the Leicester win stalled things and allowed the anti-views to harden. I understand Warnock had lined up a name striker for January. That also suggests Mandaric had it in mind to install him before sacking Dave Jones.

You can never say never in this game. But hopefully this is not an episode that will be looked back on with regret.

Silence is golden from the Lane as quiet man Clough goes about his work slowly but surely

Cock an ear to Bramall Lane. Can you hear that? No, neither can I.

The sound of silence is hardly welcome around a football ground but sometimes it is a very good thing indeed.

After all the turmoil produced by some self-destructive impulses, Sheffield United are quietly going about their business in an atmosphere of relative calm.

There is a sense finally of a hierarchy who know what they are doing and a manager who certainly does.

Most of the players equally so and I was always among those who believed there wasn’t too much wrong with this squad in League One terms.

Hopefully that will be borne out.

We are still some way off final proof because the league position remains uncomfortable.

But two tricky ties have been negotiated to the third round of the FA Cup and Blades fans can expect, at the very least, a side that will be difficult to beat when Swindon come calling on Saturday.

Small steps but it is progress.

It’s why the ill-conceived signing of Marlon King (marginalised by Nigel Clough) seems to stand out as a blot on the landscape.

From what I hear, it would be no surprise if United tried to remove it in the January window.




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