Alex Miller: Sheffield Wednesday has been a clown car for too long – and now it has crashed
It’s been a shambles for some time.
Since the late release of Sheffield Wednesday’s 2017/18 accounts showed that the club had had to sell its stadium to sidestep punishment for a flagrant disregard for spending rules.
Since the complete mess that was made of those accounts, despite what appears to have been an exceedingly generous nudge and wink from the authorities that it was something they’d better sort out.
Since transfer embargoes. Since Stoke. Since the second half of the 2019/20 season. Since the points deduction. Since a failure to tie down a talismanic top goalscorer that wanted to see out his career with the club.
Since a flurry of screenshotted direct messages from international man of mystery Erik Alonso. Since a public slagging-off of fan favourite managerial option Paul Cook. Since whatever the hell happened with international man of mystery Erik Alonso.
Since the omnishambles that has been this season; from appointing four managers sprinkled curiously across the spectrum of footballing ideology to the slow-motion motorway pile-up that was the January transfer window.
Since the appointment and sacking of Tony Pulis – he gets his own mention – and the toe-curling half-hour rant that followed.
Since the now broken insinuation that raised ticket prices would be justified by high quality football.
Since the pants-down rip-off that is Liam Shaw’s impending departure to Celtic and the subsequent and all-too-familiar attempted deflection of blame onto other parties.
Since the 10-month-late release of their 2018/19 accounts. Since snail-pace season ticket refunds and the late payment of wages and every other thing – big and small – that we don’t yet know about.
Since. Since. Since.
Some of it might be unfair. Some of it has been caused or exacerbated by the pandemic and some of it might be down to bad luck. But if there’s another club with a list of ‘shambolic sinces’ quite as long as that, I haven’t been following it closely enough.
“Of course I take full responsibility,” Owls owner Dejphon Chansiri told the assembled media at a rare press briefing at the start of November.
“Whatever happens to this club, there is no excuse, I have to take responsibility.”
Four months on, the club are staring deep into the abyss of relegation from the Championship, a fall from grace which football finance experts have calculated would bring an instant loss of up to £8m in the midst of a global financial meltdown.
Mr Chansiri has suggested that some members of the media have an agenda against him. He has accused journalists of being unprofessional and of ‘not doing their jobs correctly’.
He has blamed agents for the loss of players. He has accused the social media activity of supporters of costing the club a sponsorship opportunity he says could have been worth upwards of £100,000,000 over a 10-year period.
In December Mr Chansiri said he could not guarantee that the club would not break spending rules again because ‘the fans would moan’ about a lack of ambition.
He has accused some supporters of acting like ‘customers not fans’ for demanding more detailed answers on long-overdue season ticket refunds.
This evidence suggests that, actually, he does not ‘take full responsibility’ for what happens at Sheffield Wednesday and the concern is that it may be that lack of acceptance that holds the club back from a full and healthy restart.
To paraphrase a line coined in a sitcom that satirised the goings-on of an embarrassingly-run Government department, Wednesday’s navigation of the last couple of years has been like ‘watching a clown running across a minefield’.
Wednesday have lurched wildly from one ‘since’ to the next, never quite sure whether the next one will arrive before or after a rare league victory.
This is no bitter character assassination. Through very short conversations with Dejphon Chansiri I have no reason to believe he isn’t a good man. Countless character references from people who have worked far, far closer with him than I have would suggest he is.
He should be commended for his philanthropy, his work in the community, his generous handling of staff during the pandemic and the endless cash he has ploughed into Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. He was 90 minutes away from the promised land.
There is little doubt it was deposited with a burning, exciting ambition and the very best of intentions. He cares deeply about Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.
But with the clown car having smashed into a road barrier, attention turns to one question; what next?
Though they painted a fairly nervous picture, last week’s accounts did not appear to throw up the sort of legal nasties their predecessors did.
A whole raft of players’ contracts are up in the summer and in Darren Moore Mr Chansiri has signed a talented, highly respected young manager with knowledge of League One.
A relegation, however painful, offers a chance for a club the size of Sheffield Wednesday to take a breath and go again. They might not come back in the first season, but they can come back stronger, certainly stronger than they are right now.
By his own admission, right here and right now, it is his name above the door of a club that is failing badly at the very worst time a club could fail. The first step in dealing with a problem is accepting you have one.
There was a fiery debate on social media late on Wednesday evening as to whether or not Sheffield Wednesday players had tried during their draw with Huddersfield Town.
You know what? Even if they didn’t try a leg, a lack of effort by a group of footballers already all but consigned to relegation is the very least of this club’s worries.
Since who knows how long, Sheffield Wednesday supporters have deserved better. It’s been a shambles for some time.