Sheffield Wednesday: Departing Mandaric reveals his Owls highlight

Milan Mandaric.
Milan Mandaric.

Outgoing chairman Milan Mandaric claims the highlight of his time in charge of Sheffield Wednesday was leading the club to promotion in 2012.

Mandaric, who rescued the club from possible administration just over four years ago, made the admission after the Owls published their annual accounts yesterday.

Wednesday pipped arch rivals Sheffield United to automatic promotion, sparking memorable celebrations at Hillsborough.

“People ask me what has been the highlight of my time at the club, I think the day we gained promotion from League One in my first full season in charge probably stands out as very special,” said Mandaric, who is shortly set to step down as chairman and as a director after agreeing to sell Wednesday to Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri last month.

“The memory of so many fans squeezed on to the pitch celebrating after the game still sends a tingle down my spine.”

Chansiri’s £30m buyout of Wednesday is expected to be ratified by the Football League in the next few days. Chansiri, whose family owns Thai Union Frozen Group, will meet the press for the first time at Hillsborough on Monday. Mandaric will also attend the press conference, which has been pencilled in for 11am.

“Dejphon has convinced me that he will carry on the work we started together in 2010 and that he can give the club the very best chance of achieving our goal of a return to the Premier League,” said Mandaric.

“The Chansiri family are incredibly successful, becoming the largest Tuna processing company in the world. The Thai Union Frozen Products Public Company Limited was founded in 1988 and is now one of the biggest seafood producers worldwide.

“Dejphon has also created a thriving property and construction company in Thailand and the skills and enthusiasm he will bring to Sheffield Wednesday give me tremendous hope that success will not be far away, something the supporters of this club so richly deserve.”

The accounts show that the club’s operating loss in the year ending May 31, 2014, was £5.4m - up by £1.5m on 2013.

Turnover from match receipts and other football income dropped by £1.1m to £13.8m. There was a 12% fall in Wednesday’s league attendances, with season ticket numbers decreasing from 16,526 to 15,305.

Mandaric said: “I was extremely disappointed by our reduction in turnover which was due to the fall in revenue associated with the drop in attendances we suffered during the season.

“I do hope that with potential new investment in both the squad and the stadium from Dejphon Chansiri, supporters will back the club and our attendance figures will once again start to improve.”

Wages and salaries rose from £11.9m to £12.5m and the accounts revealed the cost of the Academy, which was granted Category Two status in 2013, were for the first time in excess of £1m.

Mandaric felt he had “no alternative” but to axe Dave Jones in December 2013, although he admitted he found it an “extremely difficult” decision.

He went on to appoint Stuart Gray as head coach who steered the club to a 16th-placed finish and “a very credible” 42 points from 30 matches.

“I appointed Stuart Gray as our new head coach in January 2014, although not to universal approval, I was convinced he was the best man for the difficult task of turning our season around,” said Mandaric.

The Owls chief said the most disappointing result of the season was their defeat to Charlton Athletic in the fifth round of the FA Cup, meaning they missed out on a quarter final tie Sheffield United.

Mandaric said Wednesday signed 10 players on permanent contracts, re-signed a further 18 and brought in 12 players on loan last season.

“Once again, I have tried to support the manager wherever possible,”

He added that Wednesday complied with Financial Fair Play regulations and will not be liable for any transfer embargo this year.

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