Milan Mandaric says he is ready to move forward with plans to bring a director of football to Hillsborough.
The Owls chairman indicated this would be his longer term plan when he appointed Stuart Gray as head coach, following the sacking of Dave Jones. And now he has told Alan Biggs of the Sheffield Telegraph that the new man will play a key role in recruiting players, adding: “We’ll make the appointment together. We have nobody in mind yet but whoever comes in will work in partnership with Stuart.”
Looking back at the appointment of Gray as head coach, Mandaric agreed that he did not necessarily fit his initial plans and that fans were calling for other names. However, he said he took his time over the appointment and reflected: “When you look at what was available, you can’t tell me that we can do any better than what we have today.”
Mandaric, who during his interview indicated that Jones was possibly wrong to get rid of Chris O’Grady, added: “Stuart is a stable guy and that’s what this club needs. And he’s a good coach, another reason why he’s titled head coach and not manager.”
The chairman said he would also favour season-long loan deals in future, with options to stay, and is keen to see more young players coming up through the ranks, emulating the likes of Liam Palmer and Caolan Lavery.
* The full Alan Biggs interview is available in this week’s Sheffield Telegraph or online at www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk
Gray, an experienced backroom man without a proven record as a boss, was a hard sell for supporters. Mandaric admits he wanted a strong, dynamic personality at the outset – hence the link with Rotherham’s Steve Evans and his initial preferred choice, Neil Warnock.
Summing up his explosive pursuit of the ex-Blade and a Hillsborough pantomime villain, Mandaric chuckles over his withdrawal: “I’m a brave man. . . but not that brave!”
But there were other clamours, too. He recalls: “I had a lot of pressure from my supporters, who I love so much, to bring in Ian Holloway and a couple of others. And they were saying to me: ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’”
Very clearly he did and not for the first time. “I couldn’t afford a mistake,” says Mandaric. “Sometimes you need to be patient rather than looking for an answer straight away.”
All the while, less than slowly and very surely, Gray was providing it and his results, projected over a season, equate to a play-off promotion challenge rather than the relegation fight he was tasked to lead.
“Taking time turned out to be right,” says Mandaric, while accepting that Gray did not fit his original identikit.The fans put pressure on me but they do know their football.
“Stuart is a solid man. Okay, he’s not jumping up and down like some others. But he’s a stable guy and that’s what this club needs. And he’s a good coach, another reason why he’s titled head coach and not manager.”