Sheffield Wednesday v Watford: Mandaric adamant Jones can steer Owls to success

Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones with Milan Mandaric.
Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones with Milan Mandaric.
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Milan Mandaric last night backed manager Dave Jones to drag Sheffield Wednesday out of their relegation scrap.

The Owls chairman saw his Championship strugglers slip into the bottom three on Saturday after a depressing 2-0 home defeat to Leicester City.

It means Wednesday have won just twice in their last 16 matches and piles the pressure on Jones to stop the rot swiftly, starting with tonight’s visit of Watford.

Jones and Mandaric were due to meet for dinner last night to discuss the Hillsborough crisis.

But the Owls chairman has issued a statement stating that while he was disappointed his summer investment in the squad had not reaped dividends, he believes Jones can deliver Championship safety.

“The Championship is one of the strongest divisions in the whole of Europe,” he said. “It is also one of the best and vital that, first and foremost, we start collecting some points and ultimately stay in this division. I have every confidence that we will do that and I firmly believe we have a good manager in Dave Jones. He and his staff have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to take us up the table.

“Nobody expected us to be where we are now, least of all myself, because we invested and recruited a lot of players over the summer but sometimes it takes time for all the pieces of the puzzle to slot together.

“I ask, as I have always done, to trust me as your chairman and understand that I will manage these difficulties with the best interests of Sheffield Wednesday at heart. We will get out of this trouble one way or another but believe me, it will be a lot easier and far less painful if we stay together with everybody working in the same direction.”

Jones took over from Gary Megson as Owls manager earlier this year, sparking an unbeaten run which clinched promotion from League One.

The manager now believes stability at Hillsborough can help the team deliver improved performances on the pitch.

“Chopping and changing is not the answer,” said Jones. “It’s the only job in the world where people think getting rid is the saviour.

“It is a lonely job. I am going out for dinner with the chairman (last night), I will know if he is not with me if I have to pay for the bill,” he quipped.

“Nobody is safe in football, they have just sacked the manager who has won the European Cup (Roberto Di Matteo). If they can sack him, I start to get worried because my win record is like 60-odd percent, yet his was 57 and didn’t seem good enough.

“We can joke about it, but I am never fearful of that. What have I done? I came here and everybody hailed me as a good manager, now all of a sudden I am a bad manager. That’s football.”

Former Cardiff City boss Jones – who has brought in new recruits like former England players Chris Kirkland and Jay Bothroyd over the summer – has vowed to battle on and repay his chairman’s faith.

“It’s about finding the right formula and putting it all together,” he said. “I spoke to Milan (on Sunday), we speak every day, and I am with him (last night). The one thing he is, is very supportive.

“That’s what you want in a chairman. The one thing about him is he can’t hide. Sometimes I have to go in front of the media and put a smile on, but the one thing is that the chairman wears his heart on his sleeve. He can’t hide that, we are all disappointed.

“I want to give him back the faith that he has shown in the people here. We haven’t all become bad people overnight.”

Jones believes results have not reflected recent performances, although accepts they were second best against Leicester.

“You are always concerned when you are not winning football matches, we can’t even get a draw,” he said. “Everybody who is in a dogfight will always be concerned, you can’t say you aren’t.

“I still feel the players are good enough to get themselves out of it. They have to realise that and be confident enough to go out in front of the fans and play.

“That was the first time on Saturday when I saw players thinking ‘the luck’s not our way’. Well you have to make your own luck. Don’t feel sorry for yourselves, and that’s what we are telling them. A lot of the time they haven’t got the rewards for the performances. On Saturday, we just have to hold our hands up and say, certainly after half time, they took grip of the game and kept it.

“I understand the fans’ frustrations . . . we all have to stick together.”

Tonight’s game sees Owls captain Martin Taylor face the club who sold him on transfer deadline day in August.

The 33-year-old lost his place in the Owls team – he has yet to appear in a winning side in seven games – but was restored at centre-half for the visit of Leicester and had his best game in a blue and white shirt.

Now Taylor is hoping he can break his duck against Watford.

“It was great to be back on Saturday, I had been waiting for it and just been working hard training,” said Taylor. “Obviously, it was disappointing with the result but I felt much better being back on the pitch. I feel a lot happier with my performance on Saturday. It didn’t quite work out for me (when I first joined Owls) but there is only one way to sort that out and that is to put the effort in.

“Statistics don’t lie, we have lost four games in a row and we need to improve, but we are putting 100 per cent effort in.

“It’s always good to play against your old team, I have an insight to how they play, which is a little bit different to how they have been over the last few years.

“There are various reasons (why he left). I was a little bit surprised that they let me leave, but I am just looking forward to playing for Wednesday now.”

Midfielder Chris Lines could make his first start of the season after returning from a long-term injury on Saturday as a substitute, while defender Miguel Llera is available after suspension.

Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday WWLLLL, Watford LWDWWD.

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Watford 1; March 24, 2010; Championship

Referee: T Bates (Staffs).