Chances are, the names mean nothing. Jon Sotnik; Paul Gregg; Kevin Mundle; Mick Wright.
But if you’re a follower of all things Sheffield Wednesday, these names could have meant everything to you. For at one point over the last decade, they have all been linked with taking over your club.
It doesn’t end there, either; Sheard. Bates. Club9 Sports - or Cloud9, as they turned out to be. Turner. Fearn. Hobson. And, most recent and perhaps painful of all, Mammadov. All have been hailed as the second coming - the saviour who could, at last, revive the fortunes of the sleeping giant of S6. For varying reasons, their advances failed. Some didn’t have the funds, some the status.
Some didn’t have either; Geoff Sheard, who used a fake letter from an offshore Caribbean bank in his bid to seize control at Hillsborough, was jailed in the US after an FBI money laundering sting and was later declared bankrupt.
A Wednesday takeover seemed up there with the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs, all chatter and no substance. And with another High Court winding-up order looming, ten years of searching for a buyer finally paid off when Milan Mandaric rode in to save the day.
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Last-minute negotiations with former Owls chairman Dave Allen gave him control of the club, and negotiations with banks and creditors saw their heavy burden of debt lifted overnight. A new Wednesday was born.
Promotion from League One followed, the inspired permanent appointment of previous caretaker Stuart Gray saw them survive in the Championship and now they sit ninth in the table, just four points behind sixth-placed Watford and ahead of the likes of Nottingham Forest, Bolton Wanderers and Fulham.
But football fans are nothing if not fickle, with notoriously-short memories. Rumours of a buyer from Thailand, brokered by Mandaric, hasn’t helped. But it is vital that those of blue-and-white persuasion do not forget the role played by the Serbian-American business tycoon.
True, it is somewhat far-fetched to imagine Mandaric growing up near Gospić, in modern-day Croatia, idolising Owls hero of yesteryear like Derek Dooley and swapping cigarette cards of Alan Finney and Redfern Froggatt. To Mandaric, purchasing the Owls was a business opportunity, a chance to make good an investment whilst indulging his obvious passion for football clubs. That is his decision. And who can argue he hasn’t done that?
Yet, for some supporters he hasn’t done enough. For some, he never will do. Yes, the Owls are probably a winger and a striker short of a real top-six challenge but for a club saved at the eleventh hour less than five years ago, ninth in the Championship is real progress. And there’s been no change to red shirts either, and no proposed name-change to ‘Sheffield Owls’ either. One wonders whether fans of Cardiff and Hull City would appreciate an owner of Mandaric’s honour and values?
So yes, Wednesday fans. Keiren Westwood may be sold in the remainder of the transfer window, especially if decent money is offered and with a very able ‘back-up’, Chris Kirkland, in place.
With or without Westwood’s undeniable talents, the lack of goals in the ‘for’ column may cost your side dear in their play-off pursuit.
And like that of Hafiz Mammadov before, this consortium of Thai investors may not end up in the directors’ box at Hillsborough. But without Mandaric, none of those things would matter.
Are you one of the Owls fans taking to messageboards and forums or radio phone-ins, berating Mandaric for not putting his hand in his pocket?
Indulge me with a bit of imagination here.
Depending on your age, how did you feel when Mark Smith’s penalty made it 4-0 against United on December 26, 1979? When John Sheridan scored the winner in the League Cup final? Or when, more recently, your side sealed promotion to the Championship in 2011/12, consigning United to the play-offs amid jubilant scenes at Hillsborough?
Pretty damn good, I imagine. Now think about how you felt back on November 29, 2010. Chances are, you probably don’t remember. You should. That was the day Milan Mandaric saved your club.
Without him, would there be a Wednesday for me write this column about? For you to cheer every weekend?
His contributions that day, and efforts since, have been every bit as important as those delivered from Dooley’s fearsome forehead or Sheridan’s raucous right foot.
And my only hope is that, when the time comes for him to hand over control, he is remembered as he should be.
As a genuine Owls hero.