We can win war together – Mandaric

Ahead of making his bow at Hillsborough today, prospective new owner Milan Mandaric believes strong leadership and a close relationship with supporters will be key to reviving the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday.

Mandaric, 72, will be introduced to the fans before the League One meeting with Bristol Rovers and seems certain to receive a warm reception after saving the club from financial disaster.

Wednesday were facing a winding-up order over an unpaid tax bill of 1.1m when Mandaric agreed his buy-out, which will formally go through on Tuesday providing the Serbian-born businessman gets the backing of shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting.

Following the EGM, Mandaric will attend a Fans' Forum in the 1867 Lounge at Hillsborough where supporters will hear of his plans for the future as the former owner of Portsmouth and Leicester City answers questions alongside chairman Howard Wilkinson and manager Alan Irvine.

Today, however, will be the first time Owns fans get an opportunity to welcome Mandaric to S6 when he makes his bow shortly before kick-off.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Wednesday's prospective new owner said: "I am very excited that a day I have been very much looking forward to is almost here. It will be a special moment for me.

"We will have a lot of challenges to overcome and things to work on but, at the same time, I expect us to have a good time together. The fans do not know me at the moment – they know of me and that is very different.

"So I would understand if they were a bit reserved at first.

"I am not expecting anything from them until they are sure about me. That is how I work. What matters is that the fans love this football club and I know that is the case.

"I want them to know that I see the fans as vital to what we can achieve here.

"I just hope they can trust me as I believe we can move forward together in what is, basically, a war. We may lose a couple of battles along the way but I believe we will win the war by working together."

Mandaric's arrival in South Yorkshire has been warmly welcomed by Wednesday fans who have endured a miserable decade since their club slipped out of the Premier League in 2000.

Only once in those 10 years have the club finished in the top half of the Championship, while this season is the fourth the Owls have spent in League One since the turn of the Millennium.

On the field, the current campaign has at least been an encouraging one with Irvine's side sitting fourth in the table ahead of today's game and through to the FA Cup third round.

Off it has been a different story with the Owls having been served with a first winding-up order by HM Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill in July.

Wednesday, who had been forced to sell goalkeeper Lee Grant to Burnley to raise much-needed funds during the summer, duly won a reprieve in the High Court when the Co-operative Bank agreed to settle the 700,000 debt in September.

The bailout proved only a temporary respite, though, with the club being served with a second winding-up order by the taxman that was due to be heard on November 17. This was subsequently adjourned for 28 days in the hope a takeover could be secured.

That duly came a fortnight ago today when Mandaric, who had recently sold Leicester City, struck a deal with all the club's major creditors and loan note holders.

The former Portsmouth owner, who boasts an impressive track record in football, said: "This will be my third time in England and what I feel can be done with this club is very exciting.

"This is a huge club, I do not have to tell anyone that as everyone knows it.

"Unfortunately, it has not had the best of times in recent years but with strong leadership I believe we can soon get Sheffield Wednesday moving in the right direction.

"I firmly believe we can achieve a lot together. With the help of every member of the football community here, Sheffield Wednesday can have a bright future. By that, I mean specifically the fans.

"The size of this club is what excites me the most. It means the potential is huge, if we can get it right. Hillsborough is a special place and the atmosphere is very special. I have seen that for myself.

"That is why I am here. The rewards are there if we can get it right. This club means so much to so many people and that is a big motivation for me."

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