10-point resurrection plan – How Dejphon Chansiri can start righting the wrongs of Sheffield Wednesday’s damning relegation
Relegation doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it doesn’t just happen over a season. For Sheffield Wednesday, the result at Derby County sent them down officially – but it’s been a long time coming.
Dejphon Chansiri’s commitment to the Wednesday cause has never been in question, not really. There’s been annoyance at decisions that have been made, and things that have been said, but the general consensus is that things were done with the best intentions.
But as we speak, the Owls are in a worse position – quite literally – than where they were when the Chairman took over. They’re back in League One, and on the brink of a rebuild that has them currently left with only 12 players to take into the new season.
Sheffield Wednesday desperately needs a reshuffle, and there is one man and one man only that can bring that reshuffle into effect. If that’s going to happen, then there needs to be an acceptance that change is needed. Things can’t go on the way they are.
Here’s a 10-point plan that could help.
Lighten the load
By his own accounts, Chansiri isn’t a football man. What he knows about the game he’s picked up since taking over at Wednesday, and for that reason has had to rely on others when it comes to various aspects of the club.
The problem is, that doesn’t work out if you’re still the one making the final decisions. If you’re still the one that things go through before they can get done. If a problem needs fixing, and you’re not on the ground in Sheffield to fix it.
Questions regarding a CEO, a Director of Football, a Sporting Director – whatever you might call it - have been asked of the chairman for some time now. He says he doesn’t feel that the role is needed, but with the bulk of the most successful teams having one on board – is it not safe to say that it’s necessary?
Even if for no other reason than to lighten the load, getting somebody in who could be at the club every day, who can dedicate their every waking minute to Sheffield Wednesday, is surely for everybody’s benefit?
Somebody with the right connections, somebody with a little black book of contacts, can play a huge role in the success of a football club. And, well, not having one hasn’t worked out so great either.
The kids are alright
We can’t have more Liam Shaws. Aside from the obvious aspect of losing a good player, it’s also just anti-business. Somebody of Shaw’s build, his age, his ability, his mindset, is a sellable asset. In the current climate, and as a young, versatile English midfielder, Shaw is a £1m or £2m player under contract.
Chansiri has said that nobody was talking about him a year ago, and maybe he’s right. But he’s always had that potential. And what about Osaze Urhoghide? People were talking about him a year ago – he should’ve been tied down on a long-term contract back then, rather than things going quiet when he picked up an injury.
If a player has established himself as a first team footballer, they need treating as such. They need more than one-year deals – because why would a player be loyal when he’s not getting any loyalty himself?
Of course we have to be aware of the current situation. Businesses have been hit hard, football clubs have been hit hard, and there’s absolutely no doubt that the Chairman is feeling the pinch given what’s happened.
Nobody is expecting him to throw money at things for the sake of it, but if the plan is to get people back to Hillsborough in numbers whenever they’re allowed, giving the grand old lady a bit of a facelift certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
Transfer policy – out
Sometimes it’s right to sell. Even if fans will moan about it, even if it’s something that ultimately hurts the quality of the team.
Adam Reach and Fernando Forestieri spring to mind. At various points there were – we’re led to believe – offers up £10m and £15m on the table for those two. That’s £25m for two players, two players who ultimately went on to leave for absolutely nothing.
If Chansiri had sold Forestieri on the brink of a promotion push, there would have been uproar of course, and he would have no doubt got plenty of abuse for it. But would it have been the right thing to do in hindsight? Probably.
People harp on about the Brentford model, but there’s certainly something to be said for running a sustainable business that funds itself in that manner. They lose Ollie Watkins, they buy Ivan Toney, and the circle continues.
Transfer policy – in
The transfer out policy only works if you replace quality with quality, and that’s easier said than done. And recruitment is certainly not easy when you’re dealing with a -12 point deduction.
Stepping away from the big-money blowout has been important, and needs to be commended, but recruitment since Chansiri took over at Hillsborough has been far too hot and cold.
For every Fernando Forestieri there’s been a Sergiu Buș. For every Barry Bannan an Almen Abdi or two. Or three.
You’re going to get some wrong, of course. But the ratio needs to improve, there has to be more hits than misses, and in order for that to happen then football people need to make football decisions.
Darren Moore needs to be given free reign, and allowed to build a team in his image.
Getting fans back in the stadium is a challenge that every football club is going to have to deal with once it’s actually allowed again.
Fans have found other things to do, other things to spend their money on, and – in some ways – the drip has been removed.
People have lost jobs, and so many have been hit so hard by the pandemic that paying the current prices is just not feasible anymore. Ticket prices need to reflect where Wednesday now are – and that is in the third-tier of English football and at the very, very least two years away from the big time.
Also, given the current predicament, surely cheaper tickets equals more people? There’s a generation of football fans being lost because of this pandemic – they need to be given a reason, and the opportunity, to choose Sheffield Wednesday again.
Keep up the panel
Fans have been desperate for better communication for a while, so to see the Supporters Engagement Panel being set up was very pleasing for lots of people. So keeping that going, and taking on board what’s being said, is key to fixing what has become a largely disjointed and apathetic fanbase.
Supporters want to know what’s going on in their football club, and it makes it so much easier to rally around if they know why a decision is being made, or – better still – if they’re consulted on it before it’s made.
Obviously it’s the Chairman who pays the bills, the Chairman keeping the club afloat, but it’s the fans who keep its heart beating. Without them, there is no club to own.
Dress like the person you want to be. Mr. Chansiri recently told the panel that there were plans to relay the turf at Hillsborough and the training ground once the season is finished, and that’s a start.
But by all accounts Middlewood Road could do with a bit more than just some new grass. Throwing a bit of money into the setup there – the place where your players spend more time than anywhere else – can set you on the right path with regards to the mindset of everybody involved.
Again, the financial situation has to be respected, but if putting some money into the training ground can help build success – and potentially go some way to preventing the seemingly never-ending injury pile-up – then it’s money well spent.
When this pandemic is under control, when fans are returning to stadiums and industries are getting back to normal, lots of businesses are going to need help.
Reconnecting with local businesses can only be mutually beneficial in that it can create revenue streams for Wednesday and put money back into a community that has now been starved of business for so long.
Get food trucks outside Hillsborough. Get those stadium boxes occupied again. Get Wednesday back into the lifeblood of a city that needs all the help that it can get if it is to get back on its feet.
A vision of a way forward
For this aspect, credit has to go to the Chairman for taking the first key step. And that’s appointing the current manager.
Amid a horrible season with so many horrible aspects, the decision to appoint Moore was inspired. He’s a young, ambitious manager who came to Hillsborough committed to the cause regardless of the division they might end up in.
Again, credit to Chansiri for coming out quickly after relegation to confirm that he’ll still be at Hillsborough next season, allaying any fears and any rumours to the contrary.
His appointment gives hope that lessons have been learned, the immediate arrival of Jamie Smith and Paul Williams gave extra reason to be optimistic in that regard.
Now it’s time to put other pieces of the puzzle into place going forward, such as backing him to create an identity that runs throughout the football club – top to bottom.