I had to come here, says Owls signing Chris O’Grady

chris o'grady
chris o'grady

CHRIS O’Grady turned down higher wage offers from two clubs - believed to be Barnsley and Huddersfield - to join Sheffield Wednesday from Rochdale, writes Alan Biggs.

Gary Megson now aims for a second striker signing with Rotherham’s Adam Le Fondre still firmly on the radar, but admits he may have to raise the cash to complete his transfer jigsaw in the January window.

The Owls boss insists O’Grady was always on his hit-list. “Chris has joined because it’s Sheffield Wednesday - he could have gone to a higher club and could also have got better wages from a club in our division,” said Megson.

Barnsley, managed by O’Grady’s former Rochdale boss Keith Hill, and big-spending League One rivals Huddersfield are thought to be those concerned.

Ex-Rotherham forward O’Grady, who lives with his family in Sheffield, said of his choice: “It’s not taking a risk at all. Sheffield Wednesday are really a Championship club, not to say Premier League. If you believe in yourself, you can get to where you want to be.”

Megson indicated another spin of the signing wheel, saying: “There will be deals between now and the end of the month, maybe deals out as well. If I can use finance to bring in players I will do.”

Asked if he would have to offload first, he said: “It depends. If it’s a significant amount I’m sure we would do. Or I would go to the chairman and ask the position.”

Rotherham are still holding out for close to £500,000 for Le Fondre. It means Wednesday’s fringe players will be under the spotlight in tonight’s Carling Cup tie with Blackpool, dangerously close to Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth but - with Megson’s blessing - a £100,000 trade-off for Sky television cash.

With two games in less than 48 hours Wednesday are to let the plane take the strain - they will fly to Bournemouth tomorrow with Megson advocating the switch to the air to reduce travelling time.

O’Grady may not figure in either game because of the minor foot injury that restricted him to the bench in his final Rochdale outing at Hillsborough last Sunday. But Megson said: “He will be a real handful who will bring us drive, size, strength and a good scoring record.”

Megson revealed he had marched several players - and chairman Milan Mandaric - to the top of the Hillsborough kop before Saturday’s winning opener. He added: “There isn’t a better sight in football - it makes the hairs stand up. It’s a an eye-opener for people and shows what a huge club this is.

“Players shouldn’t be here if it intimidates them - they should sling their hook.”

The importance of a winning league start cannot be overstated. Transfer frustrations of the sort Megson has endured can be magnified by events on the field; in the event, a solid if largely unspectacular victory underlined everything he knew about his team’s strengths and weaknesses without costing a setback.

In many ways it was perfect. Compared to last season, Wednesday looked steely rather than soft. Yet perhaps it was just as well, too, that a lack of creativity and zip in the final third was also predictably evident.

Some pleasing passing apart, the performance as a whole showed just how much the Owls stand to gain from further strengthening.

The occasion was also a perfect showcase for the club. Hillsborough couldn’t have had a glossier brochure cover than a crowd of over 21,000 - far and away the best in League One - on a sunny afternoon.

It’s one of the reasons why Bryan Robson - in the recent Dispatches sting on Channel 4 - projected Wednesday as potentially the best buy in football.

And it underlined again why a shrewd entrepreneur like Milan Mandaric has cause to think he pulled off a bargain in acquiring the club. His £12m investment, including the clearing of debts that makes Wednesday a goldmine attraction, will be worth considerably more already.

But, much as Mandaric is a businessman first and foremost and can’t guarantee not to move on at some stage, the Owls’ chairman-owner was undoubtedly conscious from the start of just how much Wednesday would be worth if they moved back up the leagues.

The romantic in him, not to mention his genuine love for football, will want to make everyone a winner - not least, the fans - in precisely that fashion. Then again, he is being hard-headed in guarding against the dangerous profligacy of the past.