Sheffield Wednesday have become the third Thai-owned club in England, following in the footsteps of Leicester City and Reading.
But new Owls owner Dejphon Chansiri has pledged to be his own man as he looks to bring the good times back to the Hillsborough outfit.
After several months of negotiations, the Thai businessman officially finalised his £37.5m takeover of the Championship club at a press conference yesterday.
Having signed all the relevant documentation alongside outgoing chairman Milan Mandaric , Chansiri went on to outline his vision for the future in front of the assembled media.
The 46-year-old admits he is still learning about English football and intends to listen and heed the advice of Paul Aldridge, who is staying on as chief executive, Mandaric, who plans to now take a break from the sport, and head coach Stuart Gray. But Chansiri, speaking to the media through a translator, says he does not plan to follow Leicester’s model, even though the Foxes gained promotion to the Premier League last season.
He said: “We believe that our philosophy of how to run the football club will be a bit different from how they [Leicester] have been doing it.
“What we want to do is set up the team for success in earning promotion to the Premier League but then also staying there.
“As chairman, the final decision for everything will rest with me. I will be taking into account the input from all the different sources within the club to make sure we come to the right decisions.”
Chansiri, who plans to bring a group of trusted advisers from Thailand to assist with the day-to-day running of the club, said he was persuaded to buy the club by his son. He added that there has been a lot interest back in his homeland ever since the deal was first announced on January 29.
Raising Wednesday’s profile in the Far East is one of Chansiri’s big priorities.
“There has been some interest and pride in a Thai owning a football team in England because English football is so popular over there,” he admitted. “Sheffield Wednesday doesn’t have the recognition yet in Thailand unless we are talking about football fans who are in their 40s who can remember when they were in the Premier League but that is something we are trying to improve.
“We would like to build the fan-base in Thailand for Sheffield Wednesday and also the ocean region such as Singapore.”
As part of growing the game in Thailand, Chansiri revealed his plans to establish an Owls academy in his homeland and potentially bring the best players over to train in Sheffield.
He said: “What’s important for me is if this (takeover) can be used to improve football in Thailand. It would be great to have some synergies with Thai clubs and Thai footballers so that they can learn from this club and have a chance to develop as footballers and play here in England.”
Chansiri has set his sights on leading the club back into the top flight by 2017, the club’s 150th anniversary year.
But Chansiri, whose family owns Thai Union Frozen Group, is adamant they will be prudent in the transfer market.
He stressed: “I believe that there needs to be some investments into the club but just throwing money at it is not a guarantee of success.
“We need to do it in a smart and sustainable manner. Some clubs throw a whole lot of money at it in the transfer market but are not successful.
“Some are somewhat frugal but are able to achieve success because they buy smart. So, I believe that if we work together and are intelligent about our approach in the transfer market then we can make the necessary improvements.”
There will be plenty of matters for Chansiri and Gray to discuss at a meeting today as the Owls embark on a new chapter in their history. There are a number of senior players who are out-of-contract in the summer, including Glenn Loovens, Jose Semedo and Chris Maguire. Chansiri has praised the job Gray has done and insists the Wednesday chief has his full support.
He said: “I’ve had a chance to meet with Stuart [Gray] on several occasions over the last couple of months.
“Stuart is very knowledgeable about football and very competent. I am very happy with him and with what he has done.
“He’s a good man, a fine coach and talented manager. He has the respect of his team and I give him my 100 per cent backing today.”
Wednesday currently sit in 10th position in the standings and Chansiri admits the chances of them going up this season are a “bit remote”. But the wealthy businessman, who first attended an Owls match when they beat Blackpool on Boxing Day where his son Att was a mascot, is convinced they are close to becoming a major force in the second-tier of English football.
“What I see is a squad that is pretty strong,” he said. “It just is lacking in some areas.
“There are perhaps some areas that could use improvement to strengthen the possibilities of competing for a promotion.
“We feel that if we make smart decisions and savvy investments that within a couple of seasons, it’s very possible to get up to the Premier League.”
There are many areas Chansiri said he wants to improve off the field, including Wednesday’s facilities at their Middlewood Road training ground complex, Hillsborough and the club’s academy. The Hillsborough pitch, which is in a poor condition, will be addressed this summer.