SHEFFIELD Wednesday captain Tom Lees believes the Owls will struggle to find a new owner who cares as much about the club as Dejphon Chansiri.
Lees was as shocked as most Wednesday supporters when frustrated Chansiri announced this week at a fans’ forum that he was putting the club up for sale.
The Thai businessman – who bought the club nearly four years ago – was unable to fulfil his three-year plan to reach the Premier League disappear.
Eighteen months of steady decline – since losing to Huddersfield Town in the 2016-17 play-offs – sees Wednesday head into today’s crunch game with Preston North End at Hillsborough sitting just five points above the relegation zone.
Chansiri last night sacked manager Jos Luhukay, who struggled to make an impact in his first job in English football, after less than a year in charge.
But while Lees admits Chansiri has made mistakes since taking over from Milan Mandaric, his passion for the Owls is undeniable, having invested over £70m into the club.
He definitely cares and that’s without question. He makes the big decisions, he makes the calls, and I think it’s important he gets the help he needs.Tom Lees
“None of the players were at the forum,” said Lees. “My initial reaction was I was a bit shocked, to be honest.
“I am not sure how definite the statement was, if it was taken out of context, but if it is the case I think it’s a real shame.
“Whenever I have spoke to the chairman, which is a lot of times, the one thing you know is he has the club’s best interests at heart.
“I think you will struggle to find someone with the club’s interests more at heart than this guy.
“He has come into football where he’s not too knowledgable in, and doesn’t have experience in.
“He could have done with better help at times, he’s going to make mistakes, and might not always do the right thing.
“But at the end of the day his care for the club is there. We have got to be careful because you never know what you might get.
“He definitely cares and that’s without question. He makes the big decisions, he makes the calls, and I think it’s important he gets the help he needs.
“We need to be careful because we have seen it before, it might not always be greener with the next person that comes in.”
Chansiri’s critics have highlighted the club’s commercial operations and player recruitment as key areas where the Owls have struggled under his leadership.
But a run of just one win in 10 games brought the immediate focus on Luhukay and his team.
Chansiri sacked Luhukay after meeting with the Owls players this week – the manager and his coaching staff were not present – to discuss what has gone wrong this season. Lees revealed emotions were running high, but the players were “pretty honest” in their assessment.
“The chairman comes down quite often and just wanted to know if there was anything he could do to help what’s happening,” said Lees. “He wanted to know our thoughts, wanted to know if there were any problems.
“The players were pretty honest with him. It’s difficult because everybody cares, it’s hurting everybody. You have that (emotion) from the chairman, but you also have that from the players. They are hurting and they are frustrated. There were always going to be a lot of emotions and stuff flying around. I think the players were pretty honest, and it’s quite good that they can speak to the chairman fairly openly.
“(The manager) wasn’t brought up, it was more whether we had any problems, if anything had changed from before. He explained what he wanted from us.
“I’m not going to say the ins and outs of the meeting, but it was him showing that he cares, and wanting to hear from us that we cared as well.”
Lees admits Wednesday “have not been good enough” this season – the Owls lost 2-1 at Swansea City last weekend – but insists the players’ efforts and commitment should not be questioned.
Victory today is vital with tough trips to Middlesbrough and West Brom looming over Christmas. “We have to get a positive result (today),” insisted Lees. “It’s been far too long without one. Looking at the fixtures coming up, we need that for where we are in the table.
“I have no doubt at Swansea that every player on the pitch gave their absolute maximum.
“Anyone who says any differently, especially this season, I don’t think it’s true. I know what I hear and see, and it’s never a case of not giving our maximum.
“I just think at times we have not been good enough. Not in terms of effort, in terms of skill and quality, and just how good we are.”