I have not written much about The Owls recently. I've been out of the country with a terrible internet connection and a Macbook that would not cooperate. This, coupled with work, has left me with neither the time or resources to put my thoughts online. Also, I haven't felt like I had much new to say. I don't want to waffle for traffic, so I thought I take a step back and observe. My belief now is that the club is in crisis. I'll explain why.
When Dejphon Chansiri bought the club in January 2015 he was met with widespread welcome. I respect the fact that he stepped up and put his money where his mouth was. I do not doubt his intentions for one minute. I believe he genuinely wants this club to succeed and become a Premier League club. I am not naive enough to believe this is entirely altruistic; he probably wants to make a profit by selling on a Premier League club in the future. I have no problem with this as football is a business. So, as I said, I have no doubts over his intentions. If he sells us for a profit, it means he must have been a successful owner.
At the end of the 2014/15 season we finished on 60 points in 13th place. Granted, Mr Chansiri was only the Chairman for a short part of the season but the fact remains he took over a club that was a stable, mid-table Championship club. It was a solid foundation to build on. I don't generally like dwelling on "What if?" questions but if we had won promotion the following season, Mr Chansiri would be hailed as a hero. There would probably be a statue in his honour at the club or a stand named after him. Our gutless performance at Wembley, in the face of incredible support, meant that we were destined for another stint in the Championship. I can't fault anything Mr Chansiri did in that first season. It was the second season when concerns started to be felt.
SWFC's squad for the play-off final against Hull in 2015/2016.
In the picture above I have posted the squad that was picked for the play-off final against Hull. We have played two full seasons since then. We are halfway through the third season. We are still talking about how much we miss Westwood, Lee, Hutchinson, Forestieri and Hooper. We never replaced Jack Hunt, Glenn Loovens, Ross Wallace or Alex Lopez from that squad.
Since that play-off final we have signed, or promoted from the youth academy the following players:
Joost van Aken
Is there anyone there that has actually improved our strongest starting eleven from that day at Wembley? Adam Reach, perhaps? Some of those players are talented but it seems like we signed players without the first clue of how to actually use them. We didn't build a team; we stockpiled players. It was a clusterfuck that led directly to our transfer embargo. I fear that the worst is yet to come.
We have been sold the idea that if we want success on the pitch, we have to pay for it. I don't have an issue with this. I happily renewed my season ticket for several years, paying over £600 each time. I know, I know, I could have paid less on the Kop but I don't like the pillars. Even if I had paid for the Kop our prices are incredibly high. Someone commented last season that our half season tickets were more expensive than almost all other Championship club's full season tickets. The thing that makes me so angry is just how much money this club has wasted. It makes me physically angry when I think about how much money Emanuelson must have been on, or how much money Almen Abdi is on, or how much we paid to have Will Buckley on loan only for him not to hardly feature. I no longer trust the club to spend my money wisely.
I didn't renew my season ticket this year. It was a tough decision that boiled down to a few factors. I work every other Saturday until 4pm. I normally have to mess around with my schedule to make the Saturday games. I use holiday or arrange shift swaps that mean I can end up working 11 out of 12 days just to get to a match. I am often out of the country seeing family or just going on holiday. All things considered I am lucky to make 65% of the matches I paid for with my season ticket. I didn't mind as I was happily investing in the club I love. This season, I just could not justify it. Several times I loaded up the site, bank card in hand but each time I backed out. People talk about loyalty in football but I believe that loyalty runs both ways. Fans loyalty to a club should be repaid by the club's loyalty to the fans. Reckless spending that leads to an embargo, in my opinion, is not a demonstration of that loyalty.
At the end of this season many three-year season tickets come up for renewal. How many will be renewed? If the club is expecting season ticket numbers to remain stable, or just drop slightly then I think they are in for a huge shock. Personally I know of several people, otherwise committed and enthusiastic Owls fans who have not renewed their season tickets. People are feeling alienated from the club. On Owlstalk, someone posted a thread; "That's it; I'm done". For every person who posts that there will be many more making the decision quietly. The future of the club is at risk. It's not just this generation, but the generations after that could be lost if fans stay way now. I'm not saying that fans should blindly hand over their money. I'm saying the club has a duty to the fans.
If we are relegated, which is looking very likely, then season ticket renewals will plummet. We've had two, recent-ish, stints in League One so there is not even a novelty element where people can try to tick grounds off their list. No arrogance intended, League One is a horrible division for a club this size.
In 2014/2015, when we finished 13th we averaged 1.3 points per game. We conceded an average of 1.07 goals per game. This season makes that record look incredible. So far we have conceded 1.81 goals per game and earned 1.09 points per game. Over the course of a full season this would see us concede 83 goals and finish on 50 points. In 2016/2017 that would have seen us relegated. These calculations do not account for the fact that our form is actually getting worse. Comparisons can be made with Sunderland last season who started the season fairly brightly before quickly falling away. We are in real danger of relegation.
Let's be real - he's done. It's not a matter of if he leaves but just a case of when. How many people could get away with swearing at a journalist whilst representing their employer? Whilst live on the radio as well. Most of us would be out of work within minutes.
When he was appointed my first reaction was "who?". I was cautiously impressed by our dogged performance against Sheffield United in his first match in charge, and the subsequent run of good form towards the end of last season. Since then, however, it has just been one bizarre decision after another. Whenever the team is announced and someone asks "where is Hector?" (for example), my go-to joke is "his name wasn't pulled out of the hat." Our team selection is seemingly so random that it could very well be mistaken for drawing straws or names out of a hat. Players have put in good performances just to be dropped for the next game or two. It is just strange. My second opinion of Jos was one of pity when he started getting criticised. I felt that he was probably working under constraints we did not know about. As our form worsened I started hoping for change before the atmosphere turned truly hostile, but following his public dressing down of Onomah and his explosion at Radio Sheffield I now simply dislike the man. He needs to go.
When Luhukay does depart the club, we need to get the next appointment right or else we will just be repeating this exercise again in a year. Our track record of signing players coupled with the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal and Jos Luhukay (two unknown managers to most English fans) does not fill me with confidence. We need a manager who knows this league. Yes, football is football but there is so much value in having a manager that has first hand knowledge of the other 23 squads in this division. There is value in having a manager that knows a certain 'keeper is weak on crosses, or a certain midfielder hates to use his left foot. If we appoint another Jos or Carlos then every game is a learning experience for that new manager. Experience counts for so much.
I don't know what the future holds but relegation will be a complete disaster. Our last two relegations to League One were expected to a degree. We had a cheap squad with a low wage budget for the Championship. This time we have a very expensive squad. Not only will season ticket income fall, but so will individual match tickets as well as TV income. As much as there is a difference between the Premier League and Championship, there is a big difference between the Championship and League One. Simply put, we have to survive this season. Relegation would be a complete and total disaster from which the club may not recover for many, many years.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.