By Tom Sargent
It was a cold Saturday afternoon in Devon on December 18 in 2010. Sheffield Wednesday played Exeter in one of the only fixtures to survive the snowstorm that weekend. The end result was an embarrassing 5-1 one defeat for the owls.
This seemed to be yet another low point of Wednesday’s 17-year exile from the Premier League. Former Leicester City and Portsmouth owner, Milan Mandaric, had just purchased the club for £1 and had to deal with £1.8m owed to the inland revenue whilst negotiating a £28m bank loan.
There had been assorted winding up orders for the club during this time, something which lifelong Wednesday fan Dave Warburton described as: “Being issued with a winding up order by HMRC was the lowest point. Luckily we were saved at the last minute!”
At the time Mandaric issued a battle cry to the fans of the Sheffield club after speaking to the Guardian: “I give the supporters and everybody who cares for this club an assurance that if shareholders vote in favour of this deal, then I will do everything in my power, working with Howard, Nick and Alan Irvine to again make Sheffield Wednesday a real force in English football.”
The first step came when former Wednesday player Gary Megson was appointed as manager partway through the 2010-11 season and although Megson was ultimately sacked, the Owls won promotion back to the Championship under the stewardship of new manager Dave Jones.
Mandaric’s intervention was vital to the club but things really changed when in 2015 he sold the club to Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri for a reported £37.5 million.
Chansiri’s first major decision was to sack manager Stuart Gray and appoint little known Carlos Carvalhal as the team’s eleventh manager in 15 abysmal years. It has appeared to be a shrewd move on the owner’s part.
The manager made good use of the loan system, bringing in out of favour Norwich striker Gary Hooper, which was eventually made into a permanent switch. Prolific Championship striker, Fernando Forestieri, made the move from Watford whilst Ross Wallace and Barry Bannan arrived on free transfers, all of whom played an integral part to the Owls’ season.
The season exceeded even the most optimistic of fans’ expectations. Chants of ‘we’re on our way back’ could be heard bellowing out from the stands throughout the season and whilst Wednesday were ultimately beaten in the play-off final to Hull, the club had achieved something marvellous.
This season they have progressed again, attracting even better players to the club. The January signing of Jordan Rhodes caught everyone’s attention. The additions of Steven Fletcher and Almen Abdi has also given the squad real depth and they currently sit in sixth position with 58 points.
Fans finally believe that this is the year the club ends their wait to get back into the Premier League, something which Warburton echoed: “I think so if I’m being honest, I don’t think our football is as attractive this year, but we can grind results out now.”