Alan Biggs Sheffield Wednesday column: Why Owls fans have become more tolerant
Football fans are often accused of helping to drive their clubs to excess and potential oblivion. Certainly the clamour can be huge around those under-punching heavyweights of the Championship.
But is it just me? Do you also detect a greater understanding and tolerance among the followers of, for want of a better example, Sheffield Wednesday? I think it reflects the real possibility of a dramatic change of mood across the whole game outside the Premier League.Examples abound of what follows from excess and mismanagement – from Bolton and Birmingham to Bury, with many hovering in between.Aston Villa averted a potential crisis by being promoted, Leeds appear to be having to fortify their ownership and backing after missing out. Given a choice between chasing the dream at any cost and ensuring that a club stays in business, fans generally are realising that it has to be the latter every time.Not that Wednesday are at risk here. The owner hasn’t driven the club beyond its means because he is personally funding it and frustrated that he can’t commit even more fully.But there is a point at which, for its general health, the EFL as a whole has to run its ailing finances far more responsibly.Proof of that is all around us. And I think supporters are slowly getting the message. For all the social media stick handed out by a minority who are forever urging owners to “get their hands in their pocket”, as if they weren’t already, the sensible majority realise that recklessness is in no-one’s interests.Ok, the hugely unfair disparity between the Premier League and Championship does tend to fuel irresponsibility. But no-one is holding a gun to the heads of the chairmen to keep spending. Control has to come from within, ideally within a more rigid framework than the one currently collapsing around the EFL board. I think supporters are more understanding of this than they are given credit for. That “silent majority” should be heeded even if it is seldom heard.Wednesday’s are offering something of a lead in this. There is – rightly – no discernible demand for promotion next season, no clamour for expensive signings and a widespread realisation that sensible offers for all, or any, player should be considered.Faced with the facts – and these are far more on view than ever before with finances under constant surveillance from media analysts – fans understand what can and can’t be done.Where this leads, hopefully, is to a recognition that good housekeeping can be married to success with good management from the top down. It does not necessarily have to be bought – as a club across the way (not perfect at all levels by any means!) demonstrated last season.To other examples. A lesson coming from the bottom to the top. You may ask what relevance Burton Albion and Accrington Stanley have to the Derbys, Forests and Wednesdays of this world. Certainly there is no comparison in size and stature.Yet both, in their own way, can be admired and maybe the core methods are transferable. Both operate strictly within their means and are relatively over-achieving by some margin.Accies chairman Andy Holt is outspoken from his League One platform yet talks a lot of sense. Burton’s Ben Robinson is low-key but with a fantastic record across two spells at the helm, beginning in 1976, of a club that came from non-league to enjoy two recent seasons in the Championship.Robinson’s award of an MBE is not only a richly deserved personal accolade but a pointer to the way football has to go. I think followers of the Owls, justly grateful for their owner’s support, would also nod to this. As would those of the many clubs poorly led to the point where achieving promotion or avoiding relegation almost ceases to be a worry. Success is not necessarily the main prize.