Outside of Yorkshire and the cities of Sheffield and Leeds in particular, Howard Wilkinson’s is not a name that would feature too highly on the list of great English managers.
However, in this the week Sheffield Wednesday celebrate the 150th anniversary of their formation, one of his former players says Wilkinson deserves more credit for what he achieved and his abilities as a coach.
Former Owls striker Imre Varadi was first brought to Hillsborough by Wilkinson and in their first year secured promotion back to the old First Division after 14 years out of the top flight.
And having played for many clubs up and down the country, under a host of managers, Varadi is in no doubt who was the best.
“I’ve got some fantastic memories, under Howard back in the 80s. It took 14 years to build a team to get back into the old First Division, that was a fantastic season. Fond memories, great times, great era, I miss it really.
“Howard bought me three times at various clubs. I’ve always said he was the best manager I played under, I’ve played for a lot of good managers but Howard doesn’t get the credit for everything he’s done.
“Maybe because he doesn’t have the charisma, not good in front of the camera, he’s more serious, but what a manager.”
Varadi added: “It was his attention to detail on the coaching field. Every player knew exactly what they needed to do when we went into a game. When we did get the ball forward we had good players, played football, knew how to create a goal and more often than not, we won, whether it was Man United or one of the smaller teams.
“He got a great team spirit together and it was a pleasure to play for Sheffield Wednesday in that era.
Speaking at the 150th anniversary dinner at Pond’s Forge on Monday night, Varadi, who had two spells with the Owls in the 80s, revealed the fondness that remains with him for Wednesday.
“I have a lot of fond memories, I still live in the city, I still go to Sheffield Wednesday and great memories that will always be with me.
“The club means a lot to me, I live here, I see the fans, divided between red and blue but it means a great deal. To play in that era, we had a lot of success and it was a pleasure to play for that team at the time.”
Jumping forward to this particular era, Varadi recognises that this hasn’t been the start to the campaign that Owls fans hoped for, but the former striker maintains that promotion has to be ‘the realistic target for this season.
“You haven’t got time as a manager,” he said. “I know he’s spent a lot of money, you’ve just got to have that balance. Maybe we need a little bit moire pace up front, maybe a centre forward to get in behind to mix it up. It’s going to be a tough season, it’s not been the greatest of starts but hopefully we start getting results together, wins under the belts and get going again.
Varadi added: “The realistic target is promotion. First of all you have got to get in the play-offs and what comes from there you keep pushing, winning games, the team gets confidence the fans get behind the team but we have got to start winning games.”