SHEFFIELD Wednesday manager Gary Megson will enter tomorrow’s Steel City derby against Sheffield United fighting to save his job.
Megson is under mounting pressure from chairman Milan Mandaric after his side suffered three consecutive league defeats and slipped to third in the League One table.
Defeat tomorrow could leave the Owls in fifth spot – eight points adrift of the Blades who are second with two games in hand – depending on other results.
Although Megson still has the support of his players and the Wednesday crowd, there is a growing belief that Mandaric may be losing patience.
The former Portsmouth and Leicester City chairman will move fast if he feels change is needed to secure promotion to the Championship – and there are several former Premier League managers currently out of work including Paul Ince, Dave Jones and Steve Bruce.
An Owls victory, however, will immediately lift the pressure – especially a victory against the Blades, the club’s arch-rivals from across the city.
Megson, a lifelong Owls supporter, met speculation about his future head on yesterday at his pre-match press conference.
“We want to win the game and there has been no focus on what will happen or how we will react if we don’t win the game,” he said. “You do feel under pressure as a manager when you lose three games on the spin. And some of the things that have been going around about ‘this or that happening’ is bound to affect you; it affects your family, even if you don’t hear it, other people hear it.
“But that’s the walk of life I am in,” he added. “I chose it and I have to get on with it.
“I have been doing this (football management) for 17 years and it happens,” he said. “You are not going to lose three games on the trot and rumours not be around the place. You can’t really do a great deal about it. You just have to try and win games and those things will go elsewhere.
“You have to try and get through these periods,” he admitted. “Because things are not going right for us. But I can’t think of any other way to do that than rolling your sleeves up and working hard and hoping that things start going in your favour.”
Megson insists that recent results have not been a fair reflection of his team’s performances and there is ‘no panic’ at the club’s Middlewood Road training ground.
Funds were also made available to sign Reading winger Michail Antonio on loan this week while Megson has been chasing strikers including Fulham’s Marcello Trotta who opted instead to join Watford.
Asked by the Yorkshire Post whether he still had Mandaric’s full support, Megson said: “I am still here. And the last time you spoke to him – on Monday – he said something like ‘We are all in it together and off we go.’ So I don’t know?
“When you have been in football a long time, like I have, it is easier to deal with pressure because you find ways of coping with it more readily than when you first come into the game. I have been in management since I was 35. About 17 years.
“Pressure comes from wanting to do well. The pressure on me is wanting to do well that badly that it hurts. The pressure is nothing to do with Sheffield United, nothing to do with results, it is purely and simply me wanting to do a job for Sheffield Wednesday to try and get it in a position I want it to be.
“It’s a pivotal game for everybody who follows Sheffield Wednesday,” he admitted. “It is a pivotal game for me – I’m going to take the team in front of the biggest crowd for a long, long time.
“But it doesn’t matter what position I am in. It’s Sheffield Wednesday playing Sheffield United at Hillsborough. And it doesn’t matter whether the manager is under pressure or getting a knighthood. It is a massive occasion for everyone concerned.”
Reflecting on losses to Exeter, Stevenage, and Chesterfield that turned up the heat, Megson said: “There is a massive frustration around the place. But our players are not stupid and they know they have played well in the last three games. They also know why we are not getting the points our pressure has deserved – we are top in every single stat you can think of apart from scoring goals.
“There is no mass panic. No-one at Middlewood has been slitting their wrists,” he stressed. “I am not looking at the stats and thinking ‘they are not working hard enough or ‘they don’t try hard enough’. And it is not like we are not getting crosses in, not creating opportunities, not winning headers. All that has happened to us, in a seven day period, is not having the bounce of the ball at one end and, at the other end, we have let in three set-pieces and a penalty.
“We have to tough it out and hope that it changes – and it would be great if that happened this weekend.”