3798: Championship; Sheffield Wedne
by : Stephen Orford
Sheffield Wednesday sit precariously in the bottom five of the Championship table, but the job of managing the south Yorkshire club remains one of the most prestigious outside the Premiership.
Paul Sturrock was removed from office last week to the surprise of many, especially after agreeing a new four-year deal just a month earlier. A 4-0 shellacking by Colchester United precipitated the exit of the former Plymouth Argyle boss, and there is little doubt that that defeat was the cause of a great deal of embarrassment around Hillsborough. Yet the decision to sack Sturrock still appears hasty, and the search for a successor must begin sooner rather than later.
Had he not recently been appointed as number two to Glenn Roeder at Newcastle United, former Wednesday player Nigel Pearson would be among the favourites. Pearson arrived at St.James’ Park following Kevin Bond’s controversial exit from the club, having served as an assistant to Bryan Robson at both Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion. He therefore has great experience as a coach, but why would he accept the role on Tyneside if he had any designs on the Wednesday job? It could be that he is more comfortable as an assistant than as the main man, but it would surprise nobody if he was appointed to heap yet more embarrassment on the Toon.
Another former Wednesday player called Nigel who can be easily linked to the job is former Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington. Recently relieved of his Carrow Road duties after a poor start to the Championship season, Worthington nevertheless remains the man who brought Premiership football back to Norfolk. His style of football impressed during Norwich’s year back in the big time, and he could be the man. He has declared an interest of sorts, but was quick to point out that financial and off-field conditions would have to be right for him.
Indeed the debt currently hanging over the Sheffield club (believed to be around £25million) may put many off, despite the club’s reputation as a narcoleptic giant. It was probably with this in mind that some shrewd operator at the club made an approach for Burnley boss Steve Cotterill towards the end of last week. The man who once formed a disastrous managerial team at Sunderland with former Owls boss Howard Wilkinson has spent the time since then rebuilding his reputation in the game. What’s more he has done so without spending money, marking him out as the kind of man for the Wednesday job.
This season he has presided over the Lancashire club’s impressive rise in the Championship, with the Turf Moor outfit lying a threatening fourth in the division. A minor snag is the fact that Burnley have refused permission for Cotterill to speak to Wednesday, so much depends on how interested he is in the job and how far he is prepared to go to initiate a move. Those with longer memories will note how he engineered his exit from Cheltenham Town to take over at Stoke City some years ago, and will not see Burnley’s resistance as any sort of barrier to his appointment.
Former Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion manager Gary Megson has to be a candidate. Yet another former Wednesday player, Megson’s managerial stock has fallen like Didier Zokora on ice after a troubled period in charge at the City Ground. Megson led West Brom to the Premiership a few years ago, but always seems to find a way to fall out not only with his board of directors but with many of his fans also. Despite his standing with the Wednesday fans as a player, his appointment as manager may be about as popular as Neil Warnock. It would not take long for fans to turn against him should things go wrong early.
John Sheridan joins an exhaustive list of former Wednesday players linked. Currently working with League One Oldham Athletic, the man who scored the winning goal in the 1991 League Cup final has sentimental value to Wednesday-ites. Yet his efforts in guiding Oldham to the edges of the play-off places may not convince the Wednesday fans just yet. Sheridan has made a lively start at Latics since taking over from Ronnie Moore, but still has it all to prove in terms of stepping up to Championship level.
One slightly mischievous, faintly bored newspaper threw the name of Graham Taylor into the frame this morning (October 23). The worst England manager in history by some distance, Taylor has nevertheless earned a reputation as a successful club manager down the years. He has shown that he is capable of working with the kind of technically challenged dross currently found at the Wednesday training ground. Though ageing and open to accusations that he is yesterday’s man, it is not all that long ago that Taylor was guiding Aston Villa to the upper echelons of the top flight. And if Terry Venables is still thought to be of some use to the England set up then everything remains possible.
Other potentially cataclysmic suggestions include Carlton Palmer and Chris Waddle. Again beneficiaries of the lazy hacks penchant for linking former players to the manager’s job, the former England pair may fancy their chances. Yet neither have proved themselves as managers, with Waddle’s spell in charge at Burnley particularly dismal. Palmer is still identified by many Stockport County supporters as the main contributor to their recent troubles. A move into a high profile job would be a major surprise, not to mention an act of sheer desperation on the scale of a David Cameron webcast.
But then again, this is Sheffield Wednesday we’re talking about.
By Stephen Orford
23 October 2006