Safe pair of hands crucial for Mandaric when he leaves Owls

Milan Mandaric
Milan Mandaric
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SHEFFIELD Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric has sent his best wishes to Steel City rivals Sheffield United ahead of the League One play-offs.

The Owls have already secured their promotion to the Championship after winning a dramatic duel with the Blades for the second automatic spot.

Mandaric, who is paying for Wednesday’s players to holiday in Marbella as an additional reward for promotion, thinks it would be good for the city if the two clubs continue their rivalry in the same division next season.

The Blades visit Stevenage tonight in a play-off semi-final first leg and the winners will meet Huddersfield Town or Milton Keynes Dons in the final at Wembley on May 26.

“I sincerely believe that there would be nothing better than for Sheffield United to get up too,” said Mandaric, pictured right. “I will support them to come back because this city needs them as well. This city is a football city and there is nothing bettter than having both clubs going neck-and-neck professionally on the field.

“It is also good to have the excitement between the two sets of supporters in a good football way.

“I think they will make it,” he added. “They have enough quality, they are a great club, and I wish them all the best.”

Mandaric, 73, has now achieved a hat-trick of promotions with three different clubs since his arrival in English football 14 years ago. Ironically, the Owls will be replacing one of those former clubs, Portsmouth, in next season’s Championship, as they have been relegated to League One.

Mandaric stepped down as Portsmouth chairman in 2006 and, although the south coast club went on to win the FA Cup in 2008, the club’s finances began spiralling out of control under new owners leading to two spells in administration.

The Owls chairman insists he will do everything possible to ensure his current club are left in safe hands when the time is right to move on.

“It breaks my heart to see Portsmouth doing not so well after I left,” Mandaric admitted. “There is nothing I can do but make sure the next owners after me at Sheffield Wednesday are the right people.

“I will not let what’s happened to Portsmouth happen to Sheffield Wednesday,” he stressed. “That will be my other objective – when the time comes.”

Owls manager Dave Jones has spent the last 24 hours in talks with out-of-contract players at Hillsborough and there is likely to be news today on who is staying and going.

Striker Clinton Morrison, winger Chris Sedgwick, and defender Jon Otsemobor are expected to be released while goalkeepers Nicky Weaver and Richard O’Donnell are out of contract and sweating over their futures.

Captain Rob Jones, goalkeeper Stephen Bywater, and defender Mark Beevers look set for new deals and out-of-contract winger Jermaine Johnson is also hoping to stay.

The Owls have started negotiations with Reading over a permanent move for winger Michail Antonio who played a key role on loan in the club’s promotion.

Defender Danny Batth has gone back to parent club Wolves after his loan stay and may now be wanted at Molineux following their relegation from the top-flight.

It remains to be seen whether the Owls will make a permanent move for Newcastle United’s highly-paid striker Nile Ranger, who had also been on loan.

“They are always difficult decisions, especially when you have just won promotion,” said Jones. “Not everyone will be kept and that’s just the way of the football world. If the club wants to move forward, we have to bring players in.”

Jones revealed that he will be attending Huddersfield’s play-off semi-final against Milton Keynes Dons tomorrow before taking a holiday.

The Owls, meanwhile, have arranged a pre-season friendly against West Bromwich Albion at Hillsborough on Saturday, August 4.

The Premier League club are currently seeking a new manager after Roy Hodgson’s decision to leave and take the England job.