Richard Brook wonders why a usually trigger-happy chairman is holding fire.
If there is one thing that all Sheffield Wednesday fans have an opinion on, at the moment, it is the future of Owls boss, Dave Jones. Many will point to a disastrous run at the start of the last season, and a patchy string of results to limp over the finish line, avoiding relegation on the final day. These supporters will also point to the fact that, as we approach November, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club are still looking for their very first win of the season.
In the other corner, though ever decreasing in number, are the supporters who will use the undoubted good form during the second half of last season generally and an upturn in performances – though not in results – since the arrival of Roger Johnson, Stephen McPhail and Matty Fryatt to defend Jones’ position. This is generally coupled with the view that, Wednesday chairman, Milan Mandaric might have been somewhat swifter in addressing the weaknesses within the playing staff, which were plain to see at the end of last season.
As is ever the case, the truth lies somewhere between the two views. In isolation of all other factors if you ask the question; ‘Should a football manager who goes from August to November without a win, keep his job?’ The answer would always be no. On the other hand, ‘Should a manager be expected to achieve with a squad that had two fit senior strikers, and the same number of centre-backs?’ This is how Wednesday were functioning before the additions of Roger Johnson and Fryatt and again the answer is no. The future of Dave Jones is a matter of opinion and it is one that for Milan Mandaric must be shaped by the unfolding state of affairs at the club – and for the supporters by what each fan believes these to be.
For some months now, Sheffield Wednesday has been widely rumoured to be subject to a takeover bid. The rumours have come from various places some more credible than others, but the sheer volume of these whispers seem to signal that something is afoot. It would certainly go a long way towards explaining elements of each side of the Jones debate. If there is a takeover in the offing it would be a rare occurrence, and would require quite extreme circumstance, for there to be a sacking of the manager. It could also be a reason for not reinforcing the squad over the summer, despite Mandaric’s own previous assertions that he would make Wednesday competitive this season. One thing seems certain; Milan Mandaric, as a successful businessman, will not allow his investment to be devalued by relegation with as passive an attitude as he has displayed in accepting Wednesday’s woeful start.
Whether or not Wednesday fans believe Jones is the man to continue in the Hillsborough hot-seat and irrespective of any impending investment, Mandaric’s patience with his manager has been highly surprising. Wednesday’s owner has a reputation as a ruthless, trigger-happy chairman who has no qualms in relieving under-performing managers of their duties. If eight permanent managers during a tenure of less than six years at Portsmouth seemed excessive, then the seven team bosses Mandaric worked with at Leicester between February 2007 and November 2010 was positively greedy. Impatience is not a trait that has characterised Mandaric’s time in Sheffield, however, as sections of the Wednesday faithful were surprised that former manager Alan Irvine was given so long before his dismissal in February 2011. Now it is Jones’ turn to benefit from this new-found patience.
The list of managers to put their neck on Mandaric’s chopping block is long and varied. Alan Ball and Rob Kelly were both sacked shortly after Mandaric’s arrival at Portsmouth and Leicester respectively, although neither were Mandaric’s own appointments. At Portsmouth Tony Pulis was next but he lasted only a few months having drifted from the plotted course of his chairman’s promotion ambitions. Graham Rix was sacked after winning 16 out of 57 games, and more pertinently four of his last 21. Velimir Zajec, the Director of Football at the root of Harry Redknapp’s 2004 defection to Southampton, became manager briefly before reverting to his original role as Alain Perrin was drafted in. Perrin was sacked for achieving four wins in 20 games, making way for Redknapp’s return – Mandaric’s last managerial appointment at Portsmouth.
At Leicester, after Kelly’s 2007 departure there were three other managers in the same calendar year. Martin Allen lasted 96 days from his pre-season appointment to the third game of the season, reportedly due to a fall-out over alleged interference from the chairman. Allen was replaced by Gary Megson but he left after just six weeks to join Bolton Wanderers. Ian Holloway managed nine wins in 32 games before being sacked as Leicester slipped into League One. Former Wednesday defender Nigel Pearson was enough of a success in his first spell at Leicester to attract the attentions of Hull, for whom he left the Foxes. The last manager Mandaric sacked at Leicester, before he left the club in the hands of Sven Goran Erikkson, was Paulo Sousa who departed following a start to a Championship season that saw the club win one of their opening nine fixtures.
Takeover or no takeover, Milan Mandaric has displayed an uncharacteristic patience at Sheffield Wednesday, especially with Dave Jones. In the early part of last season Jones led the Owls on a run between September and December that saw them lose 15 of their 19 league games. This season, albeit with seven draws, Wednesday have not won – at all – in their opening eleven games. The seven draws put the Owls on course for a points total of 29 for the season, with 50 the accepted average safety mark.
Rix and Perrin were axed by Milan Mandaric for four wins from 21 and 20 games respectively. Paulo Sousa lost his job for a start that returned one win from nine. Dave Jones across this season and last has four wins from 21 games, and a start to this season of no wins from eleven. This is not a call for Jones’ head. I take no pleasure in seeing a man lose his job and if he can turn results around once again, Wednesday fans will not care who is managing Wednesday to victory. The likely truth, however, from this look back at Mandaric’s history, is that Jones may not have long to arrest the slide.