We will get it right

Sheffield Wednesday......Milan Mandaric
Sheffield Wednesday......Milan Mandaric

Milan Mandaric has already spent £12m on refloating Sheffield Wednesday, the Hillsborough chairman reveals today.

And the owner is planning another investment surge this summer, pledging to fund a recruitment drive by manager Gary Megson.

Mandaric will add to the more buoyant mood created by back-to-back revival victories by joining Megson on a quest for “quality rather than quantity.”

The former Portsmouth and Leicester chairman insists his frustration over the absence of a promotion challenge he expected this season has only made him more determined to lift the Owls.

“It’s the biggest challenge of my career,” Mandaric told the Telegraph in a wide-ranging interview nearly four months after his £9m takeover.

“And I won’t tolerate anything less than success next season.”

Mandaric shares Megson’s view that the current squad - 29 players including loanees - is top-heavy.

With their sights set on a leaner and meaner group, Mandaric declared: “We’ve got to get quality, not quantity. It’s not good for the players to have so many in the squad because some of them don’t get a chance to play. And it’s not good for the manager. Around 23 players will make a proper squad for us. That will take a certain amount of money in the summer.

“People talk about how much I paid for the club. On what I’ve done so far, I’m in it for £12m. There were a lot of hidden bills.

“I was in a rush and didn’t get the chance to do proper due diligence. There were outside creditors and the club needed a clean name.

“We couldn’t order things like business cards or pencils. You need to be clean and be a properly financed club.

“And this season there will be losses. I did provide decent money for new players in January and our payroll is higher by far than anyone in this league.

“I want to be sure in future that it is investment rather than waste.”

Mandaric, who has also funded a proper scouting network, fully understands why crowds have dwindled to around 15,000 - still a remarkable turn-out for a club in the lower half of League One. And he will absorb the losses in his bid to help Megson reward a success-starved public after the upturn of two successive Hillsborough wins.

He added: “Gary has the opportunity with what is his club. I won’t be telling him what to do. He loves Sheffield Wednesday and has a chairman who will give him full support.”

Mandaric’s rider of what is expected in return goes without saying. Megson would accept that because in some ways he is very much like his chairman in that neither is noted for patience.

And a clear line seems to have been drawn in that Megson will want to choose his own players - as Mandaric implies - and, in effect, master his own destiny.

You sense that both men will be happy to see the back of the current campaign, even though the Owls are rapidly banishing any relegation fears as they head for leaders Brighton on Saturday with the pressure eased. Of 20 league games since the buy-out, Wednesday have still won only 4, losing 11. Mandaric admitted: “I would never have dreamt of being in this position, talking about staying up. It’s been the most difficult time of my career - I’ve never experienced anything like it.

“When I came in, I did not know or understand the team. I saw the side near the top and gave the manager (Alan Irvine) the green light to spend money to go up. It didn’t happen and then I was hoping for the play-offs.

“I truly believe there is enough quality here to have done better. It’s been just incredible. I came in at a difficult time, the concentration was on saving the club and I parachuted myself in.

“I’ve been learning since then. . . experiencing a lot of things that need to be done on and off the field.

“Yes, it’s a big challenge and it definitely makes me more determined. I’m not a quitter. You have to remember this club hasn’t been in a good position for 10 or 15 years. But I’m up for it and we’ll get it done.

“First we need to secure ourselves, to grind out points and to give our supporters signs of who we are and what we are capable of doing. And we need to see who we are going to build the team around.

“No disrespect to anyone at this level but we need to be up in the Championship and building for the Premier League.”