Well, this column can’t say it hadn’t been warned.
“Chansiri’s able to spring a surprise,” was the headline here on March 5th in the week of the new Sheffield Wednesday owner’s unveiling.
“Dejphon thinks out of the box,” a cousin and business associate of the Thai tycoon told me at the time, adding that his purchase of the Owls had “surprised everyone who knows him.”
Fast forward six weeks and your correspondent is ushered into a hospitality room at Hillsborough at the start of a media carousel, expecting just a briefing from the new chairman on his plans. Instead, I find him flanked by two well-known football figures in Glenn Roeder and Adam Pearson.
I have to say this was as big a split-second surprise as any I’ve known in nearly 40 years reporting the game. That’s how closely kept a secret was the duo’s appointment to a new football steering “committee” along with head coach Stuart Gray. Normally, you have some inkling in advance.
Mr. Chansiri’s eyes twinkled behind those glasses and you could tell he enjoyed the moment. All that had been surmised previously was that a director of football was in the pipeline. No-one could have guessed what form this was to take.
A fortnight ago, I penned a bit of friendly advice on the subject, pointing out some pitfalls with this model at other clubs and the importance of getting the structure right. On what I heard this week, I needn’t have worried.
Mr. Chansiri’s thinking, as a newcomer to the game, looks sound enough to me. He needs expertise in place in order to delegate the running of the club. In ex-Hull City chairman Pearson, highly successful in two stints at the KC, and experienced former manager Roeder, Mr. Chansiri has found the necessary know-how.
Crucially for me, and I imagine others as well, Gray will have a major say in the recruitment of players and the final say over the team itself.
These are the key words from the chairman: “The recruitment of the players will be from the committee and the coach will be part of that – and the final say in terms of coaching and team selection will be done by the coach.”
That’s why I feel Wednesday are heading down the right road.
Okay, as was inevitable, some immediately suggested a compromising of the manager’s position and pointed to his absence from the unveiling (in fact, he was at training).
In reality, Gray’s situation hasn’t changed and hopefully has been strengthened, given that it’s now clear that, barring an unexpected turn of events, he will be in charge next season. Yes, you could argue he will need a good start now that expectations have been raised, but that is true of any manager.
What matters is that Wednesday have a working platform and funding in place (“whatever it takes,” the chairman told me) to sign the right players and take the club forward.
As one who raised a cautionary note a fortnight ago, I hope and believe this set-up will work now that all has become clearer. And that all the surprises will be nice ones!