DAVE Jones is set to walk into a storm as the new manager of Sheffield Wednesday.
The former Cardiff City and Wolves manager held talks with the Owls yesterday after the Wednesday night sacking of manager Gary Megson.
It is understood that Jones is willing to accept Owls’ offer of the job despite the waves of protest sparked by Megson’s departure.
Owls supporters flooded internet message boards and local radio phone-ins yesterday with complaints about the move – announced just three days after the club celebrated victory over arch rivals Sheffield United in the Steel City derby.
Megson, a lifelong Owls supporter, hailed Sunday’s victory as the sweetest of his managerial career but now describes leaving Hillsborough as the ‘biggest disappointment of his life’.
With 13 games of the season to play, the Owls are third in the League One table – five points adrift of the Blades in second spot – but 11 points clear of those just outside the play-off zone.
Chairman Milan Mandaric wielded the axe after a breakdown in his relationship with Megson but insists the decision is ‘in the best interests’ of the club.
Jones last night emerged as clear favourite to replace Megson although former Huddersfield Town manager Lee Clark and Paul Ince, who enjoyed managerial success with Milton Keynes Dons, had also been in the frame.
Now 55, Jones spent six years at Cardiff City but was sacked last summer after narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier League for the third season in a row.
He was high on Leicester’s wanted list this season but lost out to former Owls captain Nigel Pearson.
During his time in South Wales, Jones led the Bluebirds to the FA Cup final for the first time in 81 years.
He won promotion to the Premier League with Wolves – courtesy of a play-off final victory over Sheffield United in 2003 – and also steered Stockport County into the Championship 15 years ago.
He had a three-year spell in the top flight with Southampton but this was overshadowed by off-the-field legal issues.
He was accused of child abuse during his employment as a care worker in the late 1980s, the case being thrown out in its first week when the judge recording a not guilty verdict and said the case should have never reached the trial stage.
The Owls had been linked with a move for Jones prior to last weekend’s derby and this was followed by reports that Megson had lodged a complaint to the League Managers’ Association.
He will be entitled to compensation from the Owls and the matter is in the hands of lawyers.
Although he still has over two years left on his contract, it is understood it contains a severance clause.
Megson, who could emerge as a candidate for the vacant Wolves job, admits he would love another opportunity to manage the Owls.
His association with the club goes back to the Sixties when his father Don captained the club at Wembley, and Megson jnr made over 250 appearances for the club during two spells as a player.
“I’m gutted that I’m no longer Wednesday’s manager,” he said yesterday. “With just 13 games left this season and currently in third place in npower League One, it is very disappointing that I will not have the chance to guide this great club to promotion and back to the Championship.
“I am sure that many people are aware of the strong affection I hold for Sheffield Wednesday – not only from my playing days, but also the family connection with my father having served as club captain. At some point in the future, I would love to come back to Hillsborough to finish the job I feel I had only just started.
“There will be things at Wednesday I will miss and things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” he added.
“It’s my club; the training ground, some fantastic people, and the players are as good a bunch as I have ever dealt with, but most of all I’ll miss the support, which was always unbelievable.
“One of the reasons why I took the job was to be able to work with the Sheffield Wednesday supporters. They have been terrific, a highlight of my career, and I would love to work with such great fans again. When I said I always wanted the Wednesday job it was because I wanted to work in front of those supporters.”
Reflecting on events of the last 48 hours, he said: “It hurts more than any other disappointment I’ve had in my life. I am very saddened that I will no longer have the opportunity to manage my hometown club.
“But I would like to thank the staff at the training ground – they are fantastic people – and the players, who are honest, dedicated and full of enthusiasm. I cannot praise them highly enough. I wish the club all the very best for the rest of the season.”
News of Megson’s departure was greeted with surprise by Blades manager Danny Wilson.
Back in 2000, Wilson was sacked as Owls manager and his current success with the Blades is now blocking their path to promotion.
“I really am shocked,” said Wilson. “Everybody keeps telling me that you live and die by your results. We have had Lee Clark going (at Huddersfield), now we have had Gary Megson going. I don’t know what’s in people’s thoughts. I find it very, very strange.”
The Owls visit Rochdale tomorrow and are currently in the caretaker control of Megson’s assistant Chris Evans and coach Neil Thompson.