One city and two clubs battling for promotion, Sheffield fans need nerves of steel!
22:39 GMT, 26 April 2012
Milan Mandaric has twice won an argument with the taxman, but he is not sure which gave him more satisfaction.
Probably being cleared at Southwark
Crown Court of tax evasion charges he always strenuously denied. But, as
he reflects on his other Revenue-related exchange, he admits there may
not be much in it.
Local heroes: Wednesday's Chris O'Grady (left) and Harry Maguire of United
As a direct consequence, Sheffield Wednesday were dragged back from the edge of extinction and are heading for the most eagerly awaited day this great footballing city has known since the mass evacuation to Wembley for the 1993 FA Cup semi-final.
Wednesday are going head to head with neighbours United for the one remaining automatic promotion place in League One. United's one-point lead means they can wrap it up this weekend if they win and Wednesday lose, and the knife-edge scenario reminds Mandaric of the battles he has fought since taking over at Hillsborough 16 months ago.
'When I first thought of buying the club, my family were dead against it,' said Wednesday's owner. 'The court case was hanging over me. They told me I needed a break, but I just saw this giant of a club heading for oblivion, and I couldn't resist.
'They were 24 hours from administration, so I had to act fast. Bills needed paying, so I paid them out of my own pocket. And do you know what the first one was A tax bill. I had to go to them and plead with them not to put us into administration.
'There is a certain irony there, isn't there One day, I'm in court, having to explain that I'm not a tax cheat, and the next, I'm going to the Revenue offices with a cheque, and saying, “Here's your money that someone else has not paid”.
'It was a lot (reportedly 1.7million) but it was worth it to put this great club on a strong footing. We are debt free, and there are smiles on people's faces again. I'm happy with that, but it will only count if we are still smiling after the next two games. We've got to go up. It is so important.'
The court battle alongside Harry Redknapp took its toll, and having to sack Wednesday icon Gary Megson, for fear of missing out on promotion, sapped energy levels even more.
'But let me tell you about Dave Jones,' said Mandaric. 'He builds things, the youth policy, academy, facilities, recruiting system, everything, and he has won eight and drawn two since taking charge.
'I've got a good feeling about him already. There are two managers from my previous clubs whom I stuck with, Harry and Nigel Pearson. I would put Dave in the same category.'
Only four miles separate Wednesday in the north and United in the south of the city famous for its steel making, which has been gripped by this promotion power-play and rocked by the imprisonment for rape of United striker Ched Evans.
Blades boss Danny Wilson, a former Wednesday player and boss, has needed to steady his side after a traumatic week in which they lost at MK Dons – a first defeat in 10 games – 24 hours after Evans was jailed. Wednesday added to the shock- waves by claiming a last-gasp home win over Carlisle to close to within a point.
'Nerves haven't really played a part this season and we're hoping that will remain the case,' said Wilson. 'Maybe other people in the city are more nervous than our players.'
United legend Brian Deane is mindful of the part the crowd can play in tomorrow's televised home game with Stevenage and has noted an anxiety born of recent lack of success in the play-offs
'I've been to enough games to know the feeling in the crowd that can transmit itself to the players – there can be a nervousness and anxiety,' said Deane.
'The players need the crowd to stay with them even if they don't start the game well. As a whole, this has been a fantastic season for the club and I'd rather be in United's position than Wednesday's because they are in the driving seat. It's not about playing the greatest football, it's only about the result.'