Alex Miller’s Sheffield Wednesday column.. let's invoke the spirit of Jack, Ron and Carlos.. let’s have someone with a little pizzazz
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Let’s have some charisma, let’s have entertaining press conferences; good and bad, let’s have laughs, twinkles in eyes and cheeky grins. Let’s have someone who can inject some life into a tired football club. Let’s have the leader of an army.
A roll call of successful Sheffield Wednesday managers in the modern era inspires smiles on the faces of supporters not only because of the good times, but because of the moments, the personalities that make football all the more, well, fun.
Whoever the next man is, they must connect with supporters.
In recent weeks I’ve been lucky enough to spend several hours on the phone with Ron Atkinson, the 1991 promotion and Rumbelows Cup-winning manager whose reputation for charm and dry wit rather goes before him.
When ‘Big Ron’ was relegated with a talented Owls side the season before the glory, there was no real suggestion that he should be sacked.
Half an hour or so after the final whistle was blown to confirm that shock relegation, Wednesday supporters interrupted a television interview to shout down from the South Stand that ‘they’d be back’ and that Ron was the man who would do it.
An hour or so after that Ron nervously lead his players into a Supporters’ Club dinner dance half-expecting a frosty reception. They were given a standing ovation. The adoration was cult-like.
Football management in those days carried less of a health warning when it came to job security of course, but such was his hold over the club, he stayed on and was able to build something fairly wonderful.
First and foremost, of course, Atkinson and his backroom staff were excellent football coaches and they had an excellent team. But his handling of the media, his warmth and charisma built a powerful union with Owls fans that meant that club could take on the rest of the country. And even after his controversial departure, they did.
Others? Jack Charlton would wander up and down the training ground touchline chatting to supporters and scrounging cigarettes. The twinkle-eyed Carlos Carvalhal, though fast-forwarding to a different time altogether, had such a connection with the fan base in those early days that they dreamt together.
Howard Wilkinson was not one for jazzhands, but had a connection with Wednesday fans so strong that meant he didn’t need them. He was one of them.
As we’ve seen in recent months, the role of Wednesday manager is one that can chew you up, spit you out and leave a nasty stain on your CV. Those who have had success treading these boards before have done so with the fans squarely and firmly behind them.
Whoever he may be should keep that in mind. Results are of course not only king in football but are also President and Prime Minister. But a smile and a relatable line or two can go a long way, especially in this era of social media and 24-hour news.
Regular readers of this column may well call bull on these words, remembering that not but a couple of months ago it was suggested that in appointing Tony Pulis Wednesday had made an fairly grey appointment low on sex appeal, it was one that they needed.
Well it’s made an unashamed u-turn. Let’s have fireworks.