Gary Megson: 'I'm better than some in Premier League'

The Sheffield Wednesday manager believes he's rarely failed in the dugout. And, as his 'home' club host leaders Charlton tomorrow, he is once again happy with his work

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The Independent Online

When Gary Megson suggests that some managers are not viewed "in the same way" as others, it is hard to disagree. But when the Sheffield Wednesday manager maintains that this is simply because they are better at presenting themselves to the public and the press, it is more contentious.

Even these days, surely a manager's image is more about style on the pitch than off it. Put that contention to Megson, however, and five minutes later the 52-year-old is still talking. "The perception is I play in a certain way," he says, "but the truth is I've never played the way I'd like to play since I've been a manager, because management is making the best out of what you've got.

"People talk about Bolton playing direct football under me. When I went there [in 2007] the club had had the worst-ever start to a Premier League season over 10 games because they had been successfully playing a certain style for six or seven years, and then with the same players – more or less – were playing an entirely different style.

"All I did was take it back to the style they'd proven able to play, and by doing that, in the end managed to keep the club up, while at the same time going further than they had ever been before in Europe –and that was with a reserve team. I was starting to try and change that style within set financial parameters – if I was only ever going to play a certain way, there wouldn't have been much point in signing skilful players like Matty Taylor, Mark Davies, Chung-yong Lee and Johan Elmander – but couldn't do it quickly enough while trying to cope with the sort of pressure [Blackburn manager] Steve Kean is currently trying to cope with.

"Unless you're a fortunate manager who takes over a club going very well and just need to keep it bubbling along, you have to sort things out and that's always been the way with me. Nor have I ever been at a club with a lot of money to spend, so I could change it very, very quickly to what I want. It's basically always been about getting the best out of what I've got."

In which, he maintains, he has succeeded more often than he tends to be given credit for. Keeping Bolton up and twice guiding West Bromwich Albion into the Premier League represent genuine achievements, and while Wednesday is Megson's ninth managerial position, only at Nottingham Forest will he admit to having failed to make a positive impact, and even then for reasons beyond his control.

It is a subjective view, of course, but you will not find many taking issue with his cogently expressed, if sometimes contrary, opinions in the environs of Hillsborough. As Eddie Hoyland, vice-chairman of "Wednesdayite", the supporters' association with a significant shareholding in the club, explains, Megson's long association with Wednesday – as the son of former club legend Don Megson and as a player with more than 250 appearances for the club in his own right – might have given him breathing space at the start, but everything he has done since taking over from Alan Irvine last February has convinced the fans he is the right man to restore a great club's fortunes.

"There were some who were probably a bit ambivalent when [owner] Milan Mandaric brought him in last February, but everybody's very happy now, and not just because of the results," Hoyland says. "We're a strong, fit and organised team, and if the opportunity is there we get forward quickly, which some would say are Megson characteristics, but I don't think even Sheffield United supporters could accuse us of being just a long-ball team, or trying to kick our way to promotion.

"He's not had much money to spend, but he's brought in players on loan who are really good on the ball, like Ben Marshall from Stoke and Danny Baath from Wolves. In the last few weeks the team has also had to cope without our [injured] top scorer Gary Madine, but they've adapted and kept winning, which is a really good sign.

"For years Wednesday teams looked terrified about playing at Hillsborough, but under Megson they thrive on the atmosphere. That works both ways because the crowds are responding and growing, and we're unbeaten at home this season."

Tomorrow that record will face its toughest test of the season when Wednesday, lying third in League One with a game in hand, and through to the fourth round of the FA Cup after beating West Ham United last weekend, play league leaders Charlton in front of a crowd expected to top the 25,000 mark.

Having acknowledged his considerable emotional ties to the club – "I wouldn't be in League One with anyone else" – Megson insists that his experience has taught him to maintain a professional detachment.

"I've been coming here since I was five and I love the place, but at the same time I've brought West Brom and Leicester here and won and celebrated that fact because I'd done my job. As such I've been here 11 months, and if results hadn't improved in that time I'm not stupid enough to think I'd still be here, so if another club came in, and it was better for me, I wouldn't be saying, 'No, this is my club'.

"I believe I'm a more talented manager than some who are currently working in the Premier League, and I'm ambitious to work at that level again. But however you feel about Wednesday, it is a huge club. Beating West Ham wasn't giant-killing, I don't think Sheffield Wednesday will ever play a game where you can say it's a giant-killing. If we play Manchester City or Manchester United, we are still Sheffield Wednesday and not too long ago we played those games twice a year.

"This place has had a nightmare for 15 years and we are trying to get that momentum to move it back."

And momentum has been generated, though not by spending much of owner Mandaric's cash. "Milan has been quite up front that he's bought the club as a business venture, that he wants to improve it and move on, he said that when he first came. From my point of view we do a lot on loans and free transfers, we're not doing the same thing as clubs like Charlton and Huddersfield, but you have to cut your cloth and that's where we are.

"But we have things they don't in terms of atmosphere and tradition and support, and as long as you're making the most of what you've got, that can take you a long way," Megson believes. "All we've done so far is make a start, but keeping it going and taking this club up would probably give me more satisfaction than anything I've achieved in the game."

Manager Megson: His record

Gary Megson has won promotion twice as manager - both at West Bromwich:

Games/Won/Drawn/Lost/Win%/Success?

Norwich City (1995-96): 27/5/13/9/19%/Miss

Blackpool (1996-97): 52/21/16/15/40%/Hit

Stockport County (1997-99): 102/35/40/27/34%/Hit

Stoke City (1999): 22/9/6/7/41%/Miss

West Brom (2000-04): 221/94/77/50/43%/Hit

Nottingham Forest (2005-06): 59/17/24/18/29%/Miss

Leicester City (2007): 9/3/2/4/33%/Miss

Bolton Wanderers (2007-09): 98/27/26/45/28%/Miss

Sheffield Wednesday (2011-): 51/24/11/16/47%/Hit

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