Although it seems much longer, just over a year ago now there was uproar amongst many Wednesdayites. The joy of a momentous win against our city rivals and League One promotion rivals, Sheffield United, was abruptly cut short as the club parted ways with much-loved manager, Gary Megson.
This is not the time to go over old ground by raking up a debate over the perceived strengths and limitations of Gary Megson’s managerial style and record compared to Dave Jones’s. Nor is it a time to speculate as to why Milan Mandaric put his famous trigger finger to use. The club has moved on, and the supporters with it, and we are where we are. Dave Jones has done a good job taking us over the final few hurdles of the 2011/2012 season, adapting us to one of the toughest leagues in Europe whereby we should be able survive and thrive next season. We should sing his name loud and proud.
However, we shouldn’t forget Gary Megson’s contribution. On the 4th of February 2011, Gary Megson came into a club pretty much stuck in a League One hinterland, neither serious contender for promotion nor at risk of relegation. Whilst a relegation to League One would have been disastrous, and Milan Mandaric ultimately saved us from this a month or so before by averting administration, staying as we were would also have been destructive in the long run.
The club had suffered ten years of decline on and off the pitch. We had sat and watched player after player – some promising, some journeymen - don the blue and white stripes and leave us wanting, more due to their lack of fight rather than lack of talent. Whilst Milan Mandaric set about untangling the mess behind the scenes, our club was crying out for someone both experienced as a manager and steeped enough in the club’s culture to be able to rebuild the team according to our traditions and reconnect it with the fanbase. And Gary Megson was the ideal fit.
For me there are two standout images of Gary Megson which I think sum up his time at Wednesday. There is the famous shot of him on that amazing day that will surely go down in our folklore, 26th of February 2012, during his final match in charge of Wednesday against the arch-enemy, thumping his badge and his heart in response to the jeers from Blades fans. Unrehearsed tracksuited Gary Megson, fan-turned-gaffer, brimming with passion.
Then there is the shot of Gary Megson, smartly dressed, posing on the Kop with Hillsborough as a backdrop which featured in a Daily Mail article published on 16th December 2011 titled, ‘Megson's pride! How Sheffield Wednesday boss is thriving at his 'special' home club’. This was different, this was the calmer calculating Gary Megson, deliberately sending a message to stay-away Wednesday fans - and the rest of the world - that the Owls had finally turned phoenix.
It is a shame that ‘Sir Gary Megson’, the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ - given his enviable record - has not returned to work since his exit from the club. On taking the job I seem to remember that he commented it was a risk as it represented a significant step down from the level he had been working at and was likely to receive further job offers from. But this was the romance of the Wednesday, his boyhood club, his Dad’s club, and so on.
Gary Megson said on his exit from Wednesday, probably fighting back a similar feeling of bitterness other rejected legends had felt, that he hoped to one day return to the club. I think Wednesdayites would like to see that, even if some would say not as manager. We would surely all relish the chance to say a proper ‘Thank You’ and give him some official recognition for bringing in classic Wednesday heroes like Rob Jones, Miguel Llerra, Michail Antonio and Jose Semedo, for setting the team on a path upwards in terms of results and for lifting the spirit of the fans. All in all, a job very well done.
It’s been discussed online, and recently at the club’s fans’ forum, about the possibility of the club erecting a statue in honour of our long history. From there what follows is an almost equally long debate around who the statue might be of. In my view, I can’t think of anything better than one resembling player Don Megson walking with his boy Gary to the ground, daydreaming about future success – if anything, above all our past glories, this sums up what it means to be a Wednesdayite.
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