Those who work for Milan Mandaric, the new owner of Sheffield Wednesday, tend to find themselves living in interesting times. That has been the case at all his many football clubs, from San Jose Earthquakes and various other US franchises, via Charleroi and OGC Nice to Portsmouth and Leicester City, whose chairmanship he relinquished last week. At Hillsborough, he will take over as the chairman from Howard Wilkinson, who has called Mandaric's arrival, paying off existing debts and saving the club from any possibility of administration "one of the most important days in the recent history of our great club". As chairman of the League Managers' Association, however, Wilkinson will also be well aware that Mandaric does not gladly suffer either fools or unsuccessful managers, frequently falling out with the ones he does not actually sack. In 12 years since first taking over at Portsmouth, he has gone through an average of one per season. At Portsmouth he alienated Harry Redknapp by appointing Velimir Zajec as "executive director", prompting Redknapp to resign, after which Zajec and his successor Alain Perrin lasted no time at all. The astonishing tally at Leicester was half a dozen managers in little more than three years. The first of them was a certain Rob Kelly, sacked after two months and is now assistant manager to Alan Irvine at, yes, Sheffield Wednesday.
Stanley gesture to no avail
There will be no early trip to Wembley for Mandaric after Wednesday went out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy area semi-final last Tuesday, losing 3-1 at Carlisle. The defeat came despite a telephone briefing about the opposition from Wilkinson's son Ben, a 23-year-old midfielder with Tamworth, who had played Carlisle in the FA Cup three days earlier. The other northern semi-final this Tuesday features Tranmere Rovers, who are thus two games away from Wembley despite having already lost in the competition. Back in August they were beaten in a penalty shoot-out by Accrington Stanley, who were then found guilty of having fielded an ineligible player. Ray Putterill, the scorer of Stanley's goal in the 1-1 draw, was suspended at the time. But those who lament the absence of Corinthian spirit in the modern game (the Corinthians, founded in 1882, would decline to defend a penalty kick on the basis that having committed a foul, they deserved to be punished by conceding a goal) will applaud the Accrington manager John Coleman after a highly unusual incident in the FA Cup tie at Port Vale. When his team were awarded a throw-in which should have gone to Vale, Coleman ordered the defender Kevin Long to head the ball out of play. Accrington were1-0 down at the time and the score stayed the same, which meant they lost out on a lucrative local derby at Burnley in the third round.
Rover and out? Not quite yet
The Match of the Day commentator who suggested last weekend that Blackburn Rovers had "something to cling to" after scoring at Old Trafford when 7-0 down reminded us of an eerily similar game between Luton and Charlton many moons ago. Cued in by a local radio presenter for news of yet another goal at Kenilworth Road, the man on the spot announced excitedly: "Charlton Athletic fighting back here, it's now Luton 7, Charlton 1."
Congestion in the Highlands
There was a great result for bottom club Fort William in the Highland League last weekend against reigning champions Buckie Thistle, whom bookmakers made the 33-1 on favourites: match postponed. More seriously, even sassenach softies will appreciate that the Highlands have suffered badly from the weather (temperatures at one point reaching -21C); so much so that there are early fears of fixture congestion stretching into the new year. More games have already been lost than at this stage last season, when there were a record 132 postponements in all and Wick Academy twice had to play two matches in one weekend to catch up.