Sheffield Wednesday: Owls legend Hirst hails Milan as owner sells up

Hafiz Mammadov, left, and Milan Mandaric
Hafiz Mammadov, left, and Milan Mandaric
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Wednesday old boy David Hirst has paid tribute to Owls chairman Milan Mandaric following his decision to sell the Championship club to Azerbaijan businessman Hafiz Mammadov.

It was in December 2010 Mandaric agreed to purchase Wednesday for £1 and the 75-year-old has since ploughed nearly £30m into the Hillsborough outfit.

Under Mandaric’s astute leadership, the Owls gained promotion from the third-tier of English football two years ago and have finished 18th and 16th respectively in their last two seasons in the Championship. Nonetheless, Mandaric has been openly looking for someone to buy him out for some time.

And yesterday Mammadov, the founder of the Baghlan Group, which specialises in oil, gas, construction and transportation, completed his takeover, subject to Football League ratification, with Mandaric staying on as chairman.

Hirst has expressed his delight at the buy-out but the ex-Owls striker has acknowledged the contribution Mandaric has made to the cause.

The former England international, who still works on a part-time basis with Wednesday’s youngsters, told The Star: “Milan [Mandaric] pretty much saved the football club from going bust. We were very close to the gates being locked.

“We owed people money and if we hadn’t paid by a certain date then we would have been out of business. He came in and straightened up the banks.

“He wheeled and dealed and got us back into the Championship.

“I think any sensible Wednesday fan would need to give thanks to Milan for the way he has conducted himself and got us out of the trouble we were in. He put us in a stable position.”

It was no secret Mandaric wanted to offload the club and Hirst is adamant the takeover should be viewed as a “good thing”.

“Milan has done a great job but obviously feels it’s time for him to move on,” said Hirst. “He always said he would sell the club to someone who would have the club’s best interest at heart.

“Hopefully he [Mammadov] is the right man to take the club forward.”

Mammadov owns Azerbaijan side FC Baku and French topflight club RC Lens. Hirst thinks it will only benefit Wednesday that Mammadov has experience in the football industry.

He said: “I don’t know a great deal about him [Mammadov] but if he owns other football clubs then he obviously understands the business.

“I don’t know what sort of money will need to be spent but it’s going to be take millions to turn Wednesday into contenders.

“These are exciting times for the club but we have seen football clubs bought and sold before and it’s not gone the way it’s suppose to go. Look at Aston Villa for instance. Hopefully this fellow is going to put the finances in to take us to the next level.”