Sheffield Wednesday are looking for a new manager this morning after Milan Mandaric sacked Alan Irvine. Ian Appleyard talks to the colourful Hillsborough chairman.
MILAN Mandaric last night defended his decision to add Alan Irvine to the lengthy list of managers who have bitten the dust under his stewardship.
The Sheffield Wednesday chairman, who arrived at Hillsborough following spells with Portsmouth and Leicester City, took his tally of departing managers to 14 in just 12 years yet described the sacking of Irvine as the 'hardest one'' yet.
Irvine survived just two months under Mandaric but, significantly, had failed to deliver a single league victory in that period.
Mandaric also provided the money to sign five new players during the January transfer window and the Owls had fallen eight points adrift of the League One play-off zone.
When Howard Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers Association, stepped down from the club's board earlier this week, it was seen as yet another blow to Irvine's job security.
It was no surprise, therefore, yesterday when Mandaric, 72, pulled the plug on the likeable Glaswegian and insisted there was 'no alternative'.
"Everyone should understand why we have done this," he said. "In the six weeks since I took over this club, I have not seen one win in the league. What do I do? Wait for the roof to fall down? I can't do that.
"I don't enjoy firing managers but I am leading this club so I had no alternative. The table tells the truth and we are closer to the bottom than where we are supposed to be.
"It is about the best interests of the club, it's not about the best interests of Alan Irvine or Milan Mandaric," he added. "You can't put your head in the sand, you have to move quickly."
Mandaric took over as Owls chairman shortly before Christmas, striking deals to wipe out a 28m debt, and saving the club from the threat of administration in the process.
At that stage, the Owls sat second in the League One table – only three points behind leaders Brighton and Hove Albion – and Mandaric had instantly pledged his full support for Irvine.
But results quickly started to go downhill and Tuesday night's 5-3 defeat at Peterborough United proved to be the final straw, extending the club's winless run in the league to six games.
"I know I have been told before that I get rid of managers 'too easily' but telling Alan Irvine that he was no longer manager was hard," he said. "It has been one of my hardest decisions in football especially with a man like Alan who wanted so much to be successful and who had worked so hard.
"I will always say that Alan is a great human being, a hard working man and conscientious, but things did not happen, the results were just not there. There was a little bit of delight after the FA Cup win (last weekend against Hereford United) but, when you keep winning one, losing one, what do you do? Do you sacrifice the whole season? No. Time is precious and in the football business you are living in the fast lane.
"I would have been the happiest man in the world if I didn't have to stand here now talking about Alan leaving because I wanted him to stay as long as possible," he added. "And I wouldn't have waited this long if it had been anyone else but Alan Irvine. He will find another job quickly and will probably be successful – but we were going south and, in another two or three games, we could have been looking down not up."
Reflecting on the events of the last few days Mandaric said: "The decision was made after Tuesday's game – but I still wanted to sleep on it and think 'is this the right decision?' I called Alan around 7-8pm on Wednesday night and I rang him again on Thursday. I think he expected it.
"But it is rubbish to suggest his days were always numbered. It is unfair to say I always planned to do this. I don't enjoy changing managers. When you get rid of people it is costly and emotional. When I find a good one, I stick with him. Don't forget I worked with Harry Redknapp for four years (at Portsmouth) and Nigel Pearson for two years (at Leicester) – and he only left due to the takeover and wasn't sure about the new people.
"This move demonstrates our desire to get out of this league," he stressed. "Our supporters are desperate for that and they look at me as the guy who is going to make a difference to their club. People know I have promised "A,B,C and D" and I have to deliver on those promises.
"By acting now, we still have a chance of getting into the play-offs this season. We have got 20 games to go and there are only 60 points available. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to tell you that we need 40 points to make the play-offs. This is a calculated risk to make sure we do it."
Former Bolton Wanderers manager Gary Megson is favourite to land the job although Gary Johnson, Dennis Wise, and former Owls hero John Sheridan, in charge at League Two Chesterfield, are in the frame.
"I am looking for someone who will take over and regalvanise the playing staff and get rid of the nervous system that is not working quite well," said Mandaric. "I always give my manager my full support, I never select players for him, and I never tell him what to do. We will give the new manager proper support and whatever money he needs to push for loan players. We still might be short of 2-3 players to enhance our situation.
"Of course, you would like to see proper 'passing' football but the most important thing now is getting three points at the end of the match. Winning football!" he said. "I want a manager who will get us out of this division and then take us from the Championship to the Premier League. Is that too much pressure? Well, life is pressure. If there is no pressure what is the point of living? I am not saying I want Championship next year and the Premier League the year after that – but we definitely have to go in that direction. That is the reason why I bought this club and that is why I need a manager who can handle both those objectives."
The 14 managers who lost their jobs
Alan Ball, Tony Pulis, Steve Claridge, Graham Rix, Harry Redknapp (resigned from post), Velimir Zajec, Alain Perrin.
Rob Kelly, Nigel Worthington, Martin Allen, Gary Megson (resigned from post), Ian Holloway, Nigel Pearson (resigned from post).