‘Damaged’ Mandaric revisits pledge to help lead Owls back to top flight after court case

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SHEFFIELD Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric has cast fresh doubt over his future at Hillsborough.

The Serbian was cleared of tax evasion this week but says the ordeal of the court case has taken its toll.

Speaking in a television interview, Mandaric, 73, questioned whether he would stay around long enough to deliver on his promises to the Owls’ supporters.

The former Portsmouth chairman walked free from Southwark Crown Court this week, along with Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, after a five-year investigation into alleged tax evasion.

“I love the game, I love England, but I still believe inside this has done some damage to me,” he said. “I hope I can stay long enough to deliver to them (the fans) what I promised but, if you ask me now, I tell you straight, I will have to revisit that.”

Mandaric saved the Owls from the brink of administration last season, wiped out debts of £41m, and immediately stated his intention to lead the club back towards the Premier League.

His financial support has also helped manager Gary Megson build a squad that lies second in the League One table.

In a statement on the club’s website, Mandaric insisted that he intended to ‘focus on the football’.

“I was told straight away of so many Sheffield Wednesday people who sent me hundreds of messages on supporters’ forums and I was completely overwhelmed,” he said. “That meant so much to me because I am a good, proud chairman and I can assure all my supporters that I have never cheated anyone and I never will cheat anyone.

“Of course, I now want to put this behind me the best way I can because my good name and reputation in this country, in Europe and America, has been upheld and that is so very important to me,” he added.

“I will spend some time with my family right now and also use this time to take some rest, which I do feel I need at this moment. Then I will be back into where I am made to feel so welcome, which is the Sheffield Wednesday family and community.”

Reflecting on the last 72 hours, he said: “It is just incredible how much support I have had from so many kind people in such a short space of time.

“I left the court and took the tube to my apartment and I couldn’t believe it. I had taxi drivers sounding their horns and shouting their good wishes to me.

“People, complete strangers, shook my hand and I am really touched. I turned on my phone and received so many messages and texts, from my friends in football and my friends outside football.

“I want to say a big thanks to everyone; my family, my supporters, my legal team, my colleagues and my associates. We know we need to move forward and do what I have always wanted to do and that is to focus on the football.”

Mandaric was unavailable for comment when approached by the Yorkshire Post yesterday. He has spoken to two national newspapers and plans to speak to the local media next week.

The Owls visit Exeter City this afternoon and a club spokesman said it was unclear whether Mandaric would be in attendance.

ian.appleyard@ypn.co.uk

Weekend football previews: Pages 29-31.