Mandaric stays loyal as move to Rangers is dismissed

SHEFFIELD Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric has pledged his loyalty and commitment to the club after rubbishing talk of a move to Scottish champions Rangers.

Mandaric, who was widely linked with Rangers yesterday, insisted that he would ‘never let down’ the Owls who are currently in the thick of the League One promotion race.

He stopped short of setting any timescale to his involvement at Hillsborough but stressed that he would only leave when it was in the ‘best interests’ of the club.

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The Owls stood on the brink of administration 14 months ago when the former Portsmouth and Leicester City chairman brokered a deal with major creditors and shareholders to wipe out debts and take full control.

His £9m investment was duly followed by a further £5m investment in players which enabled manager Gary Megson to assemble one of the strongest squads in the division.

After being cleared of tax evasion last week, Mandaric, 73, had hinted that his enthusiasm for football may have been jolted but his latest comments will reassure Owls supporters that he remains intent on leading the club back towards former glories.

“My only loyalty in football is to this club, to the Sheffield Wednesday people who have welcomed me into their family and made me feel so special in their hearts,” he said. “It is my duty as their leader to be open, to be honest, and one thing I can guarantee my supporters is that this chairman will never let you down.”

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Commenting on reports that he had expressed interest in Rangers following their entry into administration, Mandaric said: “I can categorically deny that there is any substance to these stories and I am disappointed that such articles are printed without any foundation whatsoever. I have never had any dialogue or contact to anyone relating to Glasgow Rangers.

“Glasgow Rangers is a huge football club with a great heritage and history, but I already have that here at Sheffield Wednesday,” he said. “For clarity, I have not instructed any of my associates to register an interest in the administration process at Glasgow Rangers and I have no interest, now or in the future, of becoming involved in the club. I can tell you that my commitment is intact and my only loyalty is with this club (Wednesday).

“We have 15 games to go of a crucial season and this is the time for everyone connected with our club to get together as one team with one desire and one objective. That is to get back to the Championship, which is the first major step of this football club’s future. It is vital I give out this information and that my supporters trust me at this critical time.”

Reflecting on the drama of his trial, Mandaric said: “Of course, I have had other issues in my life and everyone is aware of my recent court case in London. I was pleased with the outcome because my proud name was upheld which was of huge importance to myself, my family, my colleagues and my associates. While the result was the right one, which I never doubted for one moment, there has been some emotional damage but my full attention and energy is with this club without any deviation.

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“Throughout that whole process, as much as it possibly could, my focus never left Sheffield Wednesday and that is where it will be – 100 per cent – until the time is right for myself and the club to move on. When that time does come, it will always be in the best interests of our club. But, while I am here, my commitment is total and my ambitions of achieving our mutual objectives remain the same.”

“How could my focus be anywhere else right now?” he added. “I have been made to feel so welcome by the Sheffield Wednesday community and my love affair with this club is not over. My aim now is exactly the same as it was back in the summer – promotion into the Championship.”

The Owls visit local rivals Chesterfield today where links with the club’s past abound.

Manager John Sheridan scored the goal that gave the Owls victory over Manchester United in the 1993 League Cup final, chief executive Chris Turner also played in that final and later returned to Hillsborough as manager, while Chesterfield’s major shareholder is Dave Allen, the former Owls chairman whose agreement was pivotal in finally passing control to Mandaric. Turner was also involved in a rival takeover bid prior to Mandaric’s emergence.

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With both sides needing points at opposite ends of the table, it promises to be a keenly contested local derby.

For Megson, there is also an opportunity to stifle unwarranted criticism that has come his way from some supporters following a run of three consecutive defeats.

“I don’t hear the criticism because, with all due respect, I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t read the papers, and I certainly don’t go on the internet,” Megson said. “If you are surprised by criticism, you are probably in the wrong game.

“It doesn’t bother me. The only person who doesn’t get criticised is the person who doesn’t have to make any decisions,” he added. “Our supporters are fantastic. If they feel that it is right to criticise, then who am I to say anything different?”

The Owls’ home game against Oldham Athletic has been selected for live coverage on Sky Sports and will now be played on Monday, April 9 at 12.45pm.