Well Monday will see the end of the tenure of Milan Mandaric at Leicester City as owner and chairman. No Leicester fan can say it hasn’t been a dramatic period in our club’s history. There certainly is some strong opinions regarding Milan and his decisions and they are polar in direction.
Some will say that under his navigation we reached the lowest and most embarrassing period of our history. Some will say that we have never been in a more financially secure and opportune period of our history due to his reign. Whereever you sit on this spectrum of opinion, no one can say that it hasn’t been both controversial and a serious rollercoaster ride.
Now an element of our fans are of the thought that Milan never once had our (the fans) interests at heart, that he saw an opportunity to buy another football club virtually on its financial knees, with little or no interest in by any investors. As a successful businessman Milan, did what he could to get the best deal for himself. This cannot be argued as unwise from a business angle. It can be argued he cleverly put an offer on the table that was derisory. He waited and waited until the saga got to the point where fans almost demanded a conclusion, and opened their arms to a man who saw something in a club that was going nowhere.
I remember thinking that it was taking an extraordinary amount of time for the takeover to conclude, and that when initially rumoured that we would miss the transfer window with any potential funds, and suffer until the summer with the dilapidated squad we had. Well it did. It dragged out until February, as Milan returned to Serbia due to his mother’s illness. This was not a good start.
So we move onto Milan’s managerial appointments. Once again there is a polar spectrum of opinion that he did not know what he was doing, to circumstances and luck played against him at every appointment.
Milan clearly at the start wanted to appoint an up-and-coming manager with passion. It could be said that he wanted a cheap appointment. He initially went with Martin Allen. A man who must have impressed in his interview, and of course wasn’t expensive.
However, Allen’s appointment was a disaster. He spent an inordinate amount of money on ineffectual players, and promoted a training regime, which verged on the obscenely ridiculous. The ‘Mars Bar Incentive’ never really caught on, though I do wonder if it is a prerequisite in getting your coaching badges these days. With the money spent and a team of injured lower league misfits, we saw the back of Allen for an undisclosed reason. We can guess that the pre-existing players made sure the doorknob hit him on the way out.
Then came Megson. The ‘Ginger Mourinho’. Out of work for some time, this was an appointment that was not going to cost the club any compensation, and Milan felt it was worth a punt. Though we were not playing exciting football, Megson had steadied the ship with a team full of right backs.
My opinion of Megson is pretty low. This was a man who was given a lifeline. An opportunity to get back into the game. I think he obviously thought the job was too hard to turn around and fled within 6 weeks to Bolton. Bolton fans will be sorry he did make that move in retrospect.
And then came the most controversial appointment of all. The appointment that splits the fans in two – Ian Holloway. Ian had been successfully working on a shoestring budget with Plymouth, and making a team of virtual nobodies, with some astute loan signings and working wonders. Some Plymouth fans say we deserved to get what we got, because Ian had turned to them and said he was going nowhere, but to then turn up at the Walkers a couple of weeks later.
This on paper should have been a perfect match, but I think the timing was terrible. Holloway signed up in November 2007. Faced with a team full of exasperation, lack of fitness, and certainly form, a difficult task lay ahead of Holloway regardless whether you are of the opinion he was a ‘clown’ or the ‘right man at the wrong time’. Bad result after bad result led to the inevitable.
Some would say this was the worst testament in our long history. We had pride to say that we were one of a number of clubs NEVER to have fallen down to depths of the 3 shelf of the Football League. What was worse was that gloating Forrest, Derby, and Coventry fans lauded our downfall.
Ian Holloway then left us for Blackpool with his P45 in hand, with the imminent arrival of Nigel Pearson and company. Nigel spent the summer building, replacing, forging a team worthy of the Championship, never mind League One. Did Nigel get what none of the other managers got? Time? The League One title beckoned. Fans finally got to feel the joy of winning, and expectations of success were considered a palatable alternative to bitterness and begrudgery. Was this the tonic Leicester needed? Milan certainly had eyes of reaching the Premiership within his 3-year target and the dip into League One has massively knocked that on the head, regardless of rhetoric. Nigel Pearson did not converse in rhetoric, so this was going to be difficult for Milan.
Milan gave Pearson his financial support. He dug deep into his own pockets to absorb the hefty weight of financial losses we had incurred. Some fans believe this is his own fault for making silly appointments. It could be said that this wasn’t his fault and none of the managers who joined us were for done for the wrong reasons. Timing and circumstances made things inevitable.
So with a strong momentum Milan saw Pearson lead an invigorated squad to the playoffs to be dealt a blow. We didn’t make it over that final hurdle.
It seemed in the last few months of the 2009/2010 season Milan was off touting for investment. Was he selling the club or getting more money in?
Though he publicly said he was just looking for investment, it was clear he was selling up. Unfortunately with Milan, what he says publicly and what he does eventually in some matters are at odds with each other. If this is a business technique that seems to work, then maybe who am I to argue? I am not a millionaire businessman. What do I know?
Sousa in and Pearson out. Fans are at odds with this situation and what exactly occurred. Was this subterfuge due to our new investors/owners? Was there a demand for a higher profile manager to make the deal go through? We’ll probably either never know, or it’ll come out in the wash in many years to come.
Milan put Sousa, who on paper achieved more on less with Swansea, in charge. However, the momentum in the team had gone. We were deflated and mentally drained. There was a discord amongst the players. Was it Sousa’s methods or simply because he was not Pearson full stop?
Milan finally brought the big money to the club, in the form of King Power. Results were going against Sousa, and the fans were increasingly becoming restless and expectations were too high. Sousa was shown the door.
Now, it could be that finally luck had fallen on Leicester’s side. Sven- Goran Erikson was rumoured to be interested in managing the team. Other team’s fans called it ludicrous and laughed at us. Milan made Sven part of our future. King Group made sure he had the finances to do so.
So where does that leave us? Has Milan taken our club from the bottom and brought new life to the club?
Well, in my opinion, in some ways we had to reach the bottom of the barrel one way or the other before we could start ascendancy. Without Milan’s money we would not have made the club a prospective and enticing place for investment for our current owners and manager.
We aren’t there yet, by any means, but before Milan we were not heading anywhere. Stranded in the miserable cycle of mediocrity. We have grown an air of expectation which was lost on Martin O’Neil’s departure. Now there will always be a cynical underbelly to our fans, as we’ve been burned too many times in the past, but I would write that Milan has brought us to a point where we can dare to dream again. Bemoaning aside, there’s bemoaning in our blood, even if we didn’t achieve success with Sven, that somehow a political upheaval in Thailand scuppered our owners’ finances, we are now a valid prospective investment opportunity. This was not the case so many years ago when Milan took a chance with us.
Sheffield Wednesday offers Milan the exact same prospect. Okay Wednesday are currently at a lower level than we were when he took us over, but that may well be better for Milan took affect changes more readily. Having lived myself in Sheffield, I know how passionate the Owls are, and how hungry they are for a chance for change. I can’t state why this may be the case, as history shows that some individuals don’t care for criticism on public forums, and solicitors get involved. But I do hope for Wednesday that Milan will have learned from his mistakes and experience at Leicester City and bring success to S6, as I do believe they could do with a bit of success, especially with a history as rich as theirs.
I for one will be grateful and thankful for Milan’s journey with Leicester City. I wish him the best and Sheffield Wednesday all the best. Leicester City are in a better position than we have ever been, and we can move forward, and look to a brighter future thanks to Milan.
Good Luck Milan and the Owls, just not against us when we meet!
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