On Tuesday, June 10, Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov completed his takeover of Sheffield Wednesday, subject to Football League ratification.
During the handover period, Mammadov, who also owns FC Baku in his homeland and French side RC Lens, will continue to be guided by Milan Mandaric, who will stay on as chairman.
In an exclusive question and answer session with The Star’s Owls writer Dom Howson, Mandaric discusses in depth the club’s future.
Q: When do you expect the buy-out to be ratified?
A: We are working together with Mr Mammadov, his representatives and the Football League to get it finalised. There are a number of procedures you have to go through and the League require a lot of paperwork and detail but I am not expecting any stumbling blocks. He is a top businessman and is everything you would want in an owner. He loves football and relates to supporters. I don’t expect any problems. I think it could be done in a couple of weeks time.
Q: There has been a lot of speculation surrounding head coach Stuart Gray. What is his position?
A: Stuart will be given a proper chance to demonstrate what he can do. He deserves an opportunity and I don’t anticipate any changes.
We won one of our opening 16 matches last season. Maybe I gave the last manager [Dave Jones] more time than I should have done. Stuart came in and turned things around with more or less the same team.
He recalled some players who were neglected under the previous manager. He did a good job and that should not be overlooked.
Q: When did you first speak to Hafiz Mammadov on the possibility of investing in the club?
A: It was around three weeks ago. I feel it was my duty to do what is best for the club and Mr Mammadov loves the game. He is a businessman, financially strong and is willing to spend his money when needed.
The most important thing now is that we are starting to look aggressively at new players and freshening the team up.
Q: How much say will you have on the appointment of a director of football?
A:I will have some input in the decision. Mr Mammadov and his people are good, professional people who will listen.
There could be potential additions to the management but we are not looking at a director of football in the short term. That will happen in the future.
Q: What is the situation regarding the four out of contract players: Chris Kirkland, Glenn Loovens, Oguchi Onyewu and Jose Semedo, who have been offered new deals?
A: We are in the process of talking to them. Vice chairman Paul Aldridge is dealing with their agents. I would like to think they all want to stay.
Q: How is the recruitment drive progressing?
A: We are looking for additional players and are working on that. We are looking to improve the defence, midfield and forward line. Most clubs are looking to do a similar thing.
There are a lot of players who are available, especially when the Premier League clubs start sorting out their squads. We have got to make sure we will bring in the right players who will improve the team.
We have got a good mix of youth and experience and we just want to add some players so we can have a good pre-season.
Q: How long do you plan on staying on as chairman?
A: I don’t know. I am going to stay as long as I feel I am contributing and needed. There is no time issue or anything. I am here to do what is best for the club. If there are redundancies and I am not needed, I will be happy to be a supporter of the club. It makes no difference to me. All I want to do is make sure that everything is done properly and things are going in the right direction. I want to leave the club in good hands and help the new owner settle in.