As Stuart Gray pointed out yesteday during his pre-match press briefing, outgoing Sheffield Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric can be quite a demanding person to work for.
Although Mandaric is regarded as a tough taskmaster, the Owls head coach has thanked the Serbian-American businessman for backing him throughout his tenure.
Gray admits Mandaric, who agreed to sell the club to Thai seafood magnate Dejphon Chansiri for £30m last week, will be a “big loss” when he finally leaves the Championship club.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Hillsborough tussle with Cardiff City, Gray claimed he even once turned down the chance to work under Mandaric at Portsmouth.
“I had an opportunity to work with Milan [Mandaric] many, many years ago when he was at Portsmouth,” he revealed.
“Harry [Redknapp] asked me to go in there but I was actually in work at the time and I have always been very loyal to the people I have worked for.
“But when I got the invitation to come here by Dave Jones in December 2013, I met the chairman that evening with Dave and he remembered me turning him down so I think it offended him but he said ‘you’re not going to turn me down this time!’.
“I was very grateful I got an opportunity to come and work with the chairman. He’s been very, very supportive.
“He’s a football chairman and there are not many of those left in the game now.
“He cares. He can be high maintenance at times because he cares about results.
“He had the faith and confidence to put me in charge when Dave lost his job.
“He took a while to give me the job on a full-time basis but eventually did and I’m very grateful he gave me an opportunity to manage at this great club.”
Fifthteen minutes before the Owls take on Cardiff, Mandaric will step on to the Hillsborough pitch and address Wednesdayites one last time as part of ‘Thank You Milan Day’.
“The chairman deserves to say cheerio to the supporters and thank them for their support,” acknowledged Gray. “It gives them (the fans) an opportunity to thank him. We have to focus on the game.
“Hopefully that will create a positive feeling around the stadium along with the new recruits. I’m sure the chairman would rather we get three points and put in a good performance.”
It is unclear whether Chansiri, whose family owns the Thai Union Frozen Group, one of the world’s largest seafood producers, and his advisors will be in the stands as Wednesday prepare to face a Cardiff side who have lost four matches on the spin.
In an extract from his Cardiff programme notes, Mandaric said: “Mr Chansiri is absolutely the right person to take Sheffield Wednesday forward.
“He is an incredible person with a big desire to take this fantastic club to the Premier League. What is certain is that he is not buying this club to keep it in the Championship. It has to move on to the next level or I would not sell – I am not excited to go but it is the right thing to do.
“I am very proud of what I have done here and I can tell you all with my hand on my heart that every decision I made was always in the best interests of the club. Now is the time to look to the future and we do so with positivity.
“I always said that if someone came along to accelerate the process I put in place, then I would step aside and that is exactly the situation we are in today. Mr Chansiri made financial commitments during the transfer window and I would personally like to welcome all of the new players to Hillsborough.
“I will never forget your loyalty and your support, and more than anything your trust, which has meant so much to me during these four years. Without that trust, I would not have been able to deliver what you fabulous supporters deserve. I will be stepping down as your chairman and as a director but I will never step down as your friend. I know I have done my job and we can move forward with our lives but always remain good friends – it really is as simple as that.”
Once Chansiri’s takeover has been approved by the Football League, Gray hopes to sit down and discuss his playing budget with the Thai businessman.