Sheffield Wednesday’s recruitment lurch has to end - but concerns remain ahead of January window
Sheffield Wednesday's summer transfer business was delayed. It was haphazard. And they're paying the price.
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It's November and the Owls sit nine points (plus a little tax in goal difference) shy of Huddersfield Town in the first safety spot after an opening 16 matches that have flummoxed from approach to approach. Xisco switched his methods and was canned without a win. Green shoots of promise have flowered under Danny Röhl.
From the moment Josh Windass' header hit the back of the Wembley net, the summer was a hot mess through the exit of Darren Moore to the slow-and-not-at-all-steady approach to recruitment. With January rapidly approaching, the fear from the outside is that little has been lined up to ensure the failures will not be repeated.
In the weeks before David Downes left the club's head of recruitment role in early June for Blackpool, he was effectively put in 'lame duck' territory, with The Star told by agents that they had been told to refer to Moore and other senior club figures when lining up potential deals. Moore had been busy doing just that - but when he left, much of that work left with him.
Downes' departure from Wednesday was something of an open secret from mid-May. Moore was hands-on in his approach to transfers but left in early June. The arrival of Downes' temporary replacement Luke Dowling, brought in to help Xisco with what was becoming a vast recruitment drive, didn't come until in mid-July. In the period between the exit of Moore and the arrival of Dowling, one confused recruitment source approached The Star - a local newspaper - asking who the point of contact at Wednesday was. It was not a good look.
Danny Röhl seems to have been given a hand on the wheel at Wednesday in a great many ways and indications are that he is assisting Dejphon Chansiri in the selection of a new head of recruitment. The German expressed his desire to get the right man in sooner rather than later ahead of the January transfer window; it must be someone who aligns with his philosophy, he said. Röhl already has an outline idea of what areas of the squad need surgery.
There's no time to waste. Clubs up and down the country will have planned this transfer window well in advance, the more sophisticated set-ups working two or three windows ahead of time in order to steal the march on rivals. The hope is that even without a head honcho in place, Wednesday have set about plans behind the scenes to avoid a repeat of their summer failures.
In a recent interview with The Star, Chansiri said: "We will replace David Downes, I’m currently looking at who I want to bring in. Scouting at the club is something that needs to be done more in detail and with analysis - Danny actually also has people who can do that and work with us. On top of that I have what I call my advisors who are outside the club.
"So yes, I’m going to bring in someone, it’s something that I’m looking for. Danny will work with my people as well, because that’s how it works. It was the same with Darren. There are the club’s people and the coach’s people."
The identities of the advisors Chansiri refers to remain something of a mystery. Amadeu Paixao is one figure known to have been operating at the club in recent months but the full scope of his role is unknown. It should be made clear that in conversations with The Star in recent months, more than one ex-Sheffield Wednesday manager has said that Paixao was not a negative or disruptive influence on their time at the club. There are mixed reports on how much he’s involved these days.
Getting the right man in as head of recruitment at Wednesday is imperative as the club look to recalibrate and recover from their summer of madness. That the intention is to bring in a man aligned with Röhl says something for a desire to build for the future.
But running alongside that is the fact that time is against them. The 2022/23 promotion season kicked off with a summer that saw transfer activity move fast and with great forethought. Obstacles such as transfer embargoes hadn't always allowed for that in Downes' time at the club.
Given the position Wednesday find themselves in, time is of the essence. A new head of recruitment - the right man - must step in sooner rather than later and get to work on what is likely to be a monumentally important January.
What budgets and scope for change there are for Röhl and a new transfer chief to work with - Chansiri wouldn't be drawn on that but delivered his usual line on supporting his manager as best he could - remain to be seen.
There are less than six weeks to go.