If the sound levels will be loud for Sheffield Wednesday’s new signings at Hillsborough tomorrow, they will be off the scale when outgoing chairman Milan Mandaric takes to the field prior to kick-off.
As part of ‘Thank You Milan Day’, Owls fans have been asked to be seated by 2:45pm as the Serbian-American businessman bids a fond farewell.
True Wednesdayties will applaud the 76-year-old, who agreed to sell Wednesday for £30m to Thai seafood tycoon Dejphon Chansiri, when he addresses the crowd. After years of turmoil and confusion off the pitch, Milan has brought stability to the club.
Make no mistake, Milan rescued a famous club on the verge of being wound up. Howard Wilkinson, ex-Owls player, manager and chairman, once said: “Milan Mandaric did save Sheffield Wednesday from extinction. Where there’s life, there’s hope.” Milan gave the fans a reason to believe again.
Milan has steadied the ship but credit should also be given to the Co-operative Bank. They were Wednesday’s main creditors and were owed £23m. Milan struck a deal with the Bank, settling the debt with a £7m payment. Not many banks in today’s financial climate would agree to write off £16m.
As well as the Bank, Milan also agreed a deal with former chairman Dave Allen over a loan repayment, footed tax bills of around £1.4m, settled other bills and losses and funded changes in the football management team and playing squad.
Milan has not always made popular decisions. He was heavily criticised after sacking Gary Megson as manager just days after the club’s victory over Sheffield United in the Steel City derby in 2012. It was a very brave call but, ultimately, Wednesday gained automatic promotion at their arch rivals expense.
Since he purchased the club for technically just £1 over four years ago, Milan has invested millions of pounds, his time and business expertise into transforming their fortunes.
Although he will shortly step down as chairman and as a director, he will remain at Hillsborough in an advisory capacity. He has still got a lot to offer and hopefully the new owner will listen to his advice and ideas on how to take the club to the next level.
What I do know is there will be a cracking atmosphere at S6 against Cardiff City and hopefully the team can give Milan a fitting send-off.