Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWhere did Wednesday go wrong? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Where did Wednesday go wrong? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Where did Wednesday go wrong?

How are the mighty fallen is phrase often said about the current state of League One side Sheffield Wednesday FC.

League cup winners and FA cup finalists in the early 90s is a distant memory from the lowly depth of 15th in League One where they currently reside. Having faced a winding up order three times over 2010 they were staring administration in the face. Fast forward 5 months and there’s a new chairman in charge, Milan Manderic, but Sheffield Wednesday are sitting just 6 positions away from relegation to League Two. The question has to be asked, exactly what has happened to Sheffield Wednesday?

New manager, Gary Megson, was installed by Manderic in February 2010, after Alan Irvine left the club by mutual consent having not won a league game between mid December and February.  The festive period hit the Owls hard as they were sitting comfortably in the play off places but with all games being postponed they soon began to slip down the league.

Now occupying 15th position Megson has admitted his task in hand is harder than he first thought:

“We’re going two goals down in every game – we were two goals down against MK Dons yet we came back.

“At Rochdale we were two goals down at half time, we didn’t come back in terms of the result but we came back in terms of performance so there’s got to be a lot more desire to start games in that fashion.”

Megson has described Wednesday’s recent defending as ‘suicidal’ and has urged each individual player to start “playing a bit better”:

“We’re trying everything we possibly can to bring in loan players but it’s like being in the jungle, all the vultures have got the carcass already and there’s no meat left for us, but we are trying to bring players in.

“So we’ve got what we’ve got and every single one of them has got to start playing a bit better.”

After being relegated from the Championship in May the Owls were on the brink of administration and being deducted 10 points after being served with their first winding up in July with the payment of £750,000 required within 15days, however, the High Court ruled an adjournment as the Owls were involved in extensive talks with Chicago based Club 9 who were trying to buy the club for an estimated £11m – which was eventually turned down.

The club owe CO-OP bank an estimated £28 million debt, along with £1.8m owed VAT and PAYE to the Inland Revenue. The final winding up order was issued in November with the Inland Revenue now owed £1.5m to be paid within 15 days, or else face administration unless a serious investor came in.

Cue 72-year-old, former Portsmouth and Leicester City chairman Manderic, who said: ‘my football heart ruled my business head’, possibly being optimistic or admitting defeat before he had even started his journey at Sheffield Wednesday, Manderic faces a lengthy time in the directors box if he is to turn the club around and back into a Premier League side. Former Owls right-back and fans favourite Mel Sterland – who was capped once for England – believes Manderic is the right man for the job.

“Mr Manderic has got plenty of money and in this day and age you need plenty of money to build teams, get the players in that you want to play for the football club. I’d have to say it’ll be 10-12 years before Sheffield Wednesday get back into the Premier League.

“No disrespect to the other clubs in League One but it’s a poor league but the main thing is to try and get promotion but they’re finding it difficult. “

He added: “Now it’s just a matter of repaying the guy back who’s put a lot of money into the club to get Sheffield Wednesday back where they belong.”

It’s not all doom and gloom though, the Owls have picked up some form and momentum and created two wins and a draw against promotion favourites Bournemouth across February and March, having previously taken hammerings against Tranmere, Rochdale, Exeter City and Leyton Orient. Clubs that don’t quite have the same calibre as the Premier League sides Sheffield Wednesday once faced like in cup finals such as Manchester United and Arsenal. Striker and stand-in captain Clinton Morrison thinks their current position is embarrassing:

“No disrespect but we should be challenging for the league. Obviously our chins are on the floor, we didn’t get a win in the league since mid December at Bristol Rovers until the end of February, and for a club like Sheffield Wednesday that’s not good enough and we know that as a group of players.”

This is not unfamiliar territory for Wednesday though as they were relegated to the third tier of English football in the 2004-05 season. Over a decade has passed since relegation from the Premier League and the Owls have been demoted to the third tier twice in that time, so why are the staff, players and fans still convinced Sheffield Wednesday are a big club?

Yes, they are a big club in terms of their rich history, big stadium and loyal fan base. But games are unfortunately not won by history and fans. Since the 99-00 season Wednesday have had 8 managers and 7 different chairmen, none of whom have been able to restore the pride that Sheffield Wednesday once had as a ‘big club’.

There is no one person to pin point the blame on, but it has been a series of bad decisions after bad decisions that has led to their downfall; the infamous Wim Jonk is a classic example. Netherland international Jonk was bought by Danny Wilson for £2.5million in the 98-99 season. Jonk made a promising start to his Hillsborough career but his injuries worsened and left him unfit, however he was still able to pick up his £5,000 match fee as part of a stipulation in his contract.

Since Premier League relegation behind the scenes the Owls finances have progressively worsened, which ultimately caused the winding up orders received in 2010. Without money the Owls have been unable to attract top quality players to the club since the days of Wim Jonk, Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone. However, now with the financial backing of Milan Manderic there is hope and optimism around the club that Sheffield Wednesday will regain their position as one of the great teams in England.

But first and foremost the club has to accept that Wednesday are now a League One club, and their league position does not lie. BBC Radio Sheffield’s Seth Bennett believes they still are a big club, just not on the pitch:

“The fact that they’re still drawing in 20,000 fans every week to go and watch dross is in League One would suggest that probably you should still call them a big club.

“Sheffield Wednesday have competed at the highest level, they’ve won the FA cup, the league cup, they’ve also been away and represented England in Europe and as a ground Hillsborough has hosted international football and FA cup finals and they fit every criteria to be called a big club.”

He added: “Form is temporary, class is permanent, and Sheffield Wednesday still are a classy football club.”

It is a marathon not a sprint back to the Championship, let alone Premier League, and as a club Sheffield Wednesday needs to accept that, or else they may never get out of League One.

Jessica Bridge

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