MATT BARLOW: How one of the great northern clubs in Sheffield Wednesday became a dysfunctional mess. Struggling on the pitch, with the strong whiff of neglect off it…

12 February 2024 0 By Total Football News
  • Struggling Sheffield Wednesday beat Birmingham 2-0 to boost their survival bid 
  • Danny Rohl is one of the best things to happen to the club in a desperate season 
  • CHRIS SUTTON on sledging, expletive stand-offs and on-field verbal jousting – It’s All Kicking Off podcast

Sheffield Wednesday won on a night they really had to win, three new loan signings sparkled with promise and Hillsborough resounded to the beat of its new favourite victory anthem.

Daddy Cool by Boney M has been popularised by way of tribute to the EFL’s youngest manager, one of the best things to happen to the Owls in a fairly desperate season.

They are just wild about Danny Rohl in S6. They are crazy like a fool, you might even say, although the actual lyrics from the 70s disco classic don’t bear any closer scrutiny.

The thing is no-one is fooled in Sheffield.

The relief of occasional victory barely masks the shambles one of the great clubs of northern football has become. Punters know it because they live it every day and they hear what’s going on.

Danny Rohl has made an impression at Sheffield Wednesday but the club remains mired in chaos

Danny Rohl has made an impression at Sheffield Wednesday but the club remains mired in chaos

The Owls beat Birmingham City on Friday but their wins barely mask the ongoing shambles

The Owls beat Birmingham City on Friday but their wins barely mask the ongoing shambles

Hot water sometimes runs out after games, a problem blamed on an old stadium in need of a power upgrade and the habit of some players draining the system with pre-match showers.

The heating broke in the offices before Christmas, although fixed within 24 hours and the club portable heaters were brought in.

Pitches at the club’s Middlewood Road training ground were frozen and unfit to use in the cold snap and the inflatable dome with its indoor pitch has been out of action for a year, damaged by heavy snow last year and not expected back up before next month.

Rohl trained some days at Hillsborough, where the pitch is in poor condition as it often is in midwinter and reflects the neglect around the rest of the stadium.

Urgent attention is required but money is tight at this level.

Just three full-time ground staff tend the pitch at the stadium and those at the training ground. By way of reference, the ground staff at a Premier League club would be at least double this and often in double figures.

What must Rohl make of it all? He has worked at Bayern Munich one of the best-run clubs in the world, and RB Leipzig with its space-age commitment to sports science.

Sheffield Wednesday is a dysfunctional mess.

Rohl has worked at Bayern Munich, one of the best-run sides in the world, and RB Leipzig

Rohl has worked at Bayern Munich, one of the best-run sides in the world, and RB Leipzig

Supporters want Thai owner Dejphon Chansiri out with Wednesday a dysfunctional mess

Supporters want Thai owner Dejphon Chansiri out with Wednesday a dysfunctional mess

Which is the reason Friday’s fine 2-0 win against Birmingham City came with a backdrop of fresh protest organised by the 1867 Group, an independent fans’ group who want Thai owner Dejphon Chansiri out.

They distributed thousands of yellow posters, held aloft on mass as the teams emerged, live on Sky Sports, and erected a mock ‘For Sale’ sign in the street outside.

Chansiri, son a canned fish tycoon, is thin-skinned and takes the criticism badly.

From his angle, he bought the club when nobody wanted it. He threw millions from the family fortune at the Premier League dream and nobody thanked him for his efforts.

That’s because he fell short, losing at Wembley in the Championship play-off final in 2016 and the play-off semi-finals a year later, then the overspending caught up.

Wednesday broke the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability Rules, were deducted points for financial irregularities and spent two years languishing in League One before promotion in spectacular style.

An independent fans' group distributed thousands of flyers calling for Chansiri to sell the club

An independent fans’ group distributed thousands of flyers calling for Chansiri to sell the club

Good decisions and good appointments – and there have been some in nine years since Chansiri bought the club from Milan Mandaric – seem to be forever eclipsed by bad ones.

Probably because there is no infrastructure to provide Sheffield Wednesday with the stability of a normal club. Instead, it blows around in the wind at the whim of the owner.

Chansiri fired Darren Moore to puncture the euphoria of last May and replaced him with Xisco Munoz whose only win in a dozen games was on penalties in the Carabao Cup against Stockport County of League Two.

Rohl was appointed in mid-October and started knocking them into shape. The Owls won five of eight from the start of December and their 34-year-old boss got a nomination for Manager of the Month.

Victory on New Year’s Day against Hull City lifted them within three points of safety with the transfer market open and even Wednesday’s notoriously pessimistic fans started humming the theme to Great Escape.

They should have known better. Chansiri let Rohl and his team down as one deal after another collapsed in January. Conor Coventry rejected the Owls to join Charlton in a relegation battle one league down, as did Myles Peart-Harris, who opted for Portsmouth.

Rohl has knocked his side into shape after arriving in October but relegation is still looming

Rohl has knocked his side into shape after arriving in October but relegation is still looming

Duncan McGuire snubbed them for Blackburn, who then made a mess of the deal leaving him without a transfer.

There were echoes of the summer transfer window when Wednesday earned a reputation for being difficult to do business with, reluctant to pay fees to agents.

Meanwhile, they still demanded money for players they desperately wanted out to make room on the wage bill. In the end, even more loan signings were thrown into the mix.

When the window closed there were seven registered on loan but a maximum of five can be named in any match-day squad.

Owls supporters are desperate for a break from the endless cycle of chaos and uncertainty

Owls supporters are desperate for a break from the endless cycle of chaos and uncertainty

Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Fletcher were left out on Friday. Hendrick, on loan from Newcastle, is among those omitted from the 25-man EFL squad by Rohl in the hope the club might still pick up free agents.

Others include Lee Gregory and Callum Paterson, who is injured.

New loan signings Ian Poveda, Ike Ugbo and James Beadle, impressed against Birmingham and the win rekindles hope that Rohl might produce a little more alchemy and escape the drop but there’s a tricky trip to Leicester tomorrow(TUE) followed by Millwall away on Saturday.

Relegation looms but there is a bigger picture because what Owls supporters crave most is a break from this endless cycle of chaos and uncertainty.

CARVALHAL BRUTALLY AXED 

Former Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal lasted only 11 games as manager of Olympiacos. He only lost three games but two defeats to rivals Panathinaikos, one on penalties in the Greek Cup, went down badly with Evangelos Marinakis. 

Former Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal lasted just 11 games in charge of Olympiacos

Former Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal lasted just 11 games in charge of Olympiacos

SPURS RACK UP TENNIS SCORE 

Tottenham hired Wimbledon and won by a tennis score, beating Bournemouth 6-2 to reach the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals. Spurs borrowed the Dons’ Cherry Red Records Stadium because Stevenage, where they often play, had a League One fixture on the same night. 

They asked Leyton Orient and Barnet to no avail and ended up on the opposite side of the capital. They do have a home of their own but Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was ruled out on account of the Premier League fixture against Brighton, four days later. 

Tottenham beat Bournemouth 6-2 in Wimbledon to reach the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals

Tottenham beat Bournemouth 6-2 in Wimbledon to reach the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals

TNS’ WORLD RECORD GRIPE 

Busy times in the disputes department at Guinness World Records. Not only did they have to climb down and admit they wrong about the 23ft Eiffel Tower model made from the wrong sort of matchsticks and launch an investigation into the legitimacy of the world’s oldest dog, but they have also been fielding an appeal from TNS of the Cymru Premier. 

The Welsh champions thought they had beaten their own world record of 27 wins in a row with number 28 against Bala Town on Friday night, only to learn the sequence did not count because one of the victories came on penalties, against East Fife in the Scottish Challenge Cup in October. ‘As far as we are concerned, a win is a win,’ said a TNS statement.