Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United reminds this column of a morning sitting in Milan Mandaric’s office at Hillsborough. The then Owls chairman pointed to an adjacent space on the couch opposite his desk.
“He sat right there,” said Mandaric.
“He” was a maverick Italian businessman looking to buy an English club. Shown the door at Hillsborough, Massimo Cellino went 35 miles up the M1 and the rest is...well, many a Leeds fan will wish it was history!
While the circus that is Elland Road continues to entertain supporters up and down the land, conspicuously excepting those of Cellino’s own club, it’s a reminder to Wednesday followers of what might have been.
In the intervening period, the Owls have had two managers (Stuart Gray was in situ at the time). Leeds have had six up to and including current incumbent Steve Evans. All the while, Cellino fights attempts by the Football League to ban him as a director.
It’s perhaps remarkable amid all the chaos – and a credit to the rumbustious style of former Rotherham boss Evans – that Leeds sit in mid-table, albeit 10 points behind the Owls.
But the bottom line, ahead of Saturday’s Hillsborough derby, is that there is absolutely nothing Wednesday would swap with their Yorkshire rivals.
For that, yet again, there is Mandaric to thank. He insisted on finding a serious buyer who would invest heavily in the club and keep football interests at heart.
Here there is a slight anomaly. There is no question Cellino has sunk a lot of cash into Leeds and you could certainly argue he is, or was, more of a football man than the eventual new chairman of the Owls.
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But Dejphon Chansiri has gone on to satisfy Mandaric’s criteria far beyond the Thai tycoon’s ability to transact a £37.5m buy-out. And, with a vested interest on cashing in further should the Owls reach the Premier League, Mandaric must be delighted that his instincts are proving correct.
There is nothing wrong with making mistakes providing you learn from them. While Cellino appears to blunder from one brainstorm to another, Chansiri, as a novice in the football arena, has been prepared to heed warnings and correct experimental aspects of his initial course.
His disbandment of an unwieldy transfer committee and introduction of a revolutionary three-year season ticket, following a controversial match day hike, are the best examples.
It adds up to a healthy environment along with the continuity of a self-styled coaching appointment. Carlos Carvalhal, in whom Chansiri pinned great faith, embodies the owner’s penchant for thinking and acting out of the box.
Chansiri, on an extended visit to preside over the January window, runs things his way and could not be more hands on, even from a distance of some 6,000. From hearsay, even the smallest detail needs his approval, raising the question of delegation. And yet in company he is a very unassuming character.
Which tends to mask the ambition burning beneath. Never mind top six, I’m convinced he hasn’t given up on automatic promotion just yet. Therefore – and this is the only wisp of crowd on the horizon – it’s hard to escape the conclusion that such enterprise deserves better than the 20,000 turn-out on a night of low-pegged prices in midweek.