Dejphon Chansiri helping turn his Sheffield Wednesday dream into reality

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.
Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.
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IN the 12 months since agreement was reached over Dejphon Chansiri’s takeover, Sheffield Wednesday have risen three places in the Championship table to sixth.

On the surface, a steady, if unspectacular rise in standing, especially when compared to Brighton & Hove Albion’s own surge from 19th to fourth over the same period.

The reality, however, is that the Owls are a club transformed since it was revealed on January 29 last year that the Thai businessman had reached agreement on his £37.5m takeover at Hillsborough.

Millions have been lavished on transfers and wages, ending the practice of having to rummage in the bargain bin of transfers for unpolished gems – an approach that had been a necessity for a club losing upwards of £5m each and every season.

Attacking football is also back in vogue at Hillsborough amid an unerring sense that Wednesday really are on their way back to the big time, if not this year then certainly by Chansiri’s target of 2017 to mark the club’s 150th anniversary in style.

Plenty, therefore, for Chansiri to be pleased about at the end of a year that has vindicated most of the big decisions that have been made in S6.

Recruiting Carlos Carvalhal, an anti-climax of an appointment if we are being honest last summer following talk of possible big name replacements for Stuart Gray, has proved to be a masterstroke. So, too, has a recruitment policy that brought the likes of Fernando Forestieri, Barry Bannan and Daniel Pudil to the club amid serious interest from elsewhere at such a pivotal time, just before the summer window was due to close.

Ambition was at the heart of those signings, as it was again just last week when Gary Hooper’s stay in south Yorkshire was made permanent for a little over £3m.

Deeds have backed up that bold talk of a year ago, something that has come as a pleasant surprise to those of us imbued with a cynical streak after listening to so many similar unfulfilled promises from new arrivals to the county’s football scene down the years.

Chansiri has also bought into the ethos of the Steel City.

He enjoys his time in Sheffield, as has been evident when this correspondent has been out socially in his company this season.

Much of the talk on these evenings was about football, Chansiri clearly having fallen under the spell of the game.

Transfer targets – some subsequently signed, others who Wednesday missed out on – and what impact they could have at Hillsborough were discussed with passion equal to any fan, albeit delivered in his usually understated way.

In fact, sitting across the dinner table from the Owls chief, it is sometimes hard to tally the image of someone so unassuming with the very much hands-on approach he employs when running the club.

Few, if any, decisions of even medium size are understood to be made without Chansiri’s say-so, even if he is 6,000 miles away in Thailand at the time.

Mistakes have been made at times, of course. This is surely to be expected of someone new to the peculiarities of the football business. The controversial summer hike in matchday ticket prices was one, the mood of supporters being badly misjudged.

Likewise, the transfer committee that was hailed as the way forward just last April when Adam Pearson and Glenn Roeder were brought on board has been quietly dropped.

In its place has come a more traditional model, where the head coach has a significant input but the final word – and responsibility for negotiations – lays with Chansiri.

This ability to return to previous decisions and tweak things – as also happened following complaints over those matchday prices, three-year season tickets now being available that represent a significant saving even if the Owls don’t win promotion – reveals a willingness to compromise, a quality that prevents owners heading down a dead end.

Behind the scenes, Chansiri asks a lot of his staff. If a problem arises, he wants to know the solution. The new £1m pitch laid last summer, for instance, has started to look threadbare in parts. The cause is the electricity supply to Hillsborough needs upgrading to fully utilise the lighting rigs brought in between games to aid growth of the grass. Made aware of the problem, Chansiri quickly gave the work the green light. It was typical of the proactive style that the Thai businessman has brought to Hillsborough in his first year.

“Carlos had a dream…” may be the chant of choice among the Hillsborough faithful this season but it is Chansiri who is helping turn that dream into a reality.