Dom Howson column: There is a positive vibe around Sheffield Wednesday

Paul Jewell
Paul Jewell

Poor results on the field. Boardroom unrest. Financial mismanagement. Long-suffering supporters.

To say the last two decades have not been too kind for the Owls would be a massive understatement.

Now author Tom Whitworth has charted one of the most turbulent periods in the club’s history in a new book - Owls: Sheffield Wednesday Through the Modern Era.

Tom, a Wednesday fan, told me: “It was pretty grim when we were dropping through the leagues.

“We were in big debt, had a lot of change in managers and plenty of things were happening off the pitch.”

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For Tom, who hails from Wadsley, the downward spiral began when fiery Italian striker Paolo Di Canio pushed over referee Paul Alcock in the Owls’ 1-0 victory over Arsenal in September 1998.

“In the book, I talk about the push being the start of the decline,” he said. “It was symbolic.

“Di Canio left, which perhaps wasn’t handled well. Dave Richards left to become chairman of the Premier League just as we got relegated.”

There are revealing interviews in the book from the key players, managers and board members, including Trevor Francis, Paul Jewell, David Pleat, Dave Allen, Howard Wilkinson, Lee Strafford and Darren Purse.

“I pieced together the story from a number of different perspectives,” said Tom. “I have given a lot of people a platform.

“It’s a narrative of a long period of the club’s history which has been quite up and down.”The more people I spoke to about the story and met, it wasn’t just a case of we picked the wrong managers and bought the wrong players. It was a much bigger picture than that.

“A lot of people spoke to me about the soul of the club. Things were going on behind the scenes, there was a lot of controversy and challenges. I was wanting to know why we hadn’t done well.

“We won at Cardiff and there were a lot of hopeful moments. It wasn’t all doom and gloom.

“But until Milan Mandaric came in, I didn’t really see how we were ever going to progress. Milan got us going in the right direction after we went to the wire with the High Court.

“I really didn’t think we were going to see this day.”

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Tom started writing the book before Wednesday regained promotion to the Championship four years ago.

“I finished it all the day after Wembley last May!” laughed Tom. “Winning the Play-Off final would have been a good ending but it still ends with a positive.”

Chairman Dejphon Chansiri and head coach Carlos Carvalhal have spearheaded the long-awaited revival. There is a feelgood factor at S6 again. It is a club on the up.

Tom said: “I know a lot of people who go to the ground early now as they want to be there. They look forward to it more. I personally have that feeling.

“I get in to watch them warm up which I never used to do. Things are positive and there is a buzz around the place.

“No club has any divine right to do well but it is nice to feel better than we used to.”

*Owls: Sheffield Wednesday Through the Modern Era is on sale November 1, printed by Pitch Publishing, costing £12.99.

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