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Sheffield Wednesday's man with a (business) plan

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Paul Fletcher | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 10 July 2009

Sheffield Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford is nothing if not stimulating company.

The 37-year-old pulls the conversation in one direction, then ensures it veers off in another. His chunky gold watch catches the light as he leans forward to underline his latest point, while there is a genuine passion in his south Yorkshire accent as he outlines his vision for the club. Several times during our conversation I found myself struggling to keep track.

Building the Wednesday brand, understanding how football can embrace technology and the internet, communicating properly and transparently with the club's fanbase and persuading the right investors to come on board - for a man who describes himself as an "L-plates" chairman, he is brimming with ideas.

But what is he all about and can he repair the damage that the tired Championship club has endured during a turbulent few years?

There is no question that Strafford, who officially became chairman of The Owls on 7 January, genuinely cares about the club.

He saw his first game as a 10-year-old, standing in the north-west corner of the Leppings Lane End. He cannot remember the opponents but he does remember Andy McCulloch scoring. Whatever the details, Strafford had seen enough to be well and truly hooked.

Being both chairman and a huge fan can be a problematic situation. The love for a club can cloud the steeliest businessman's judgement, with sentiment creeping into the equation just when tough decisions are required. Strafford is confident he addressed this when he brought in Nick Parker, who is now The Owls' chief executive.

"I needed someone who was not tainted by being a football fan - that was the weak element of my CV. I was too close," Strafford told me.

Strafford does not draw a salary or have an office at Hillsborough. He describes himself as a volunteer worker. Parker, in contrast, is in charge of much of the day-to-day running and is in a full-time professional position.Sheffield Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford

Even so, both have a business background. Where is the football expertise?

There is pleasure in Strafford's voice when he talks about Howard Wilkinson. The 65-year-old took The Owls back to the top flight during a five-year spell as manager between 1983 and 1988 and the chairman clearly has huge respect for him. Two days after he became chairman Strafford brought in Wilkinson as technical advisor. Strafford calls him the third spoke in the Wednesday wheel and is confident he has the perfect man to help him and Parker develop the right infrastructure to take Wednesday forward.

Bringing Wilkinson back to Hillsborough also went down well with the Wednesday fans. Strafford obviously places a lot of stress on bringing the fans back on board after a few years in which they had turned against the previous administration and become deeply disillusioned.

He is guarded when he discusses the people who ran the club before him, the "old guard" as he puts it. Strafford says he is grateful that they stood aside and let him and Parker come in to try to drive the club forward. But he will say this: "Too many things had gone too far.

"We ended up with a situation where the relationship between the club and the fans was problematic beyond what you would expect as a consequence of the club no longer being in the Premier League."

As an example of how certain decisions alienated supporters he points to one towards the end of the 2007-08 season to increase season ticket prices for the following campaign even though the club was not certain of avoiding relegation.

I liked what Strafford had to say about the relationship between a club and their supporters. It is like he wants to treat them as adults whereas sometimes clubs still think they are children.

"Football clubs have to be a lot more honest because the fans know a lot more than they did 10 to 15 years ago," added Strafford.

"People are walking around with Blackberries and iPhones and accessing information over the internet. That touch-paper has been lit and there is no putting it out."

Strafford talks about "fixing the Sheffield Wednesday family", making supporters proud to be a part of their club once again. He sees the shirt sponsorship deal with the widely respected Children's Hospital in Sheffield as something that can help this process.

"The instant we announced we were gifting the shirt sponsorship to a hospital that has touched so many people in the south Yorkshire area, it was something that was an antidote to the pain we are carrying through our veins as Wednesday fans," said Strafford.

The chairman draws parallels with Aston Villa shirt sponsor, Acorns Children's Hospice Trust. Villa is a club that Strafford thinks Wednesday can both learn from and emulate. He clearly has a lot of respect for American owner Randy Lerner and if you speak with Strafford for a while it soon becomes obvious that he has a good knowledge of American sport and the way their sport franchises work.

For several years Plusnet, the internet service provider company Strafford founded, was majority owned by a business in Pheonix, Arizona and he spent a lot of time in the US. The Owls chairman believes that many basketball and baseball franchises went through a process in the 1980s and 1990s that football clubs in England need to embrace if they are to grow.

"There are big parallels," he said. "We are just going there now but on the other side are family-friendly stadiums and good community programmes that engage the entire fanbase.

"Too many clubs have sat on their laurels and expected the fans to turn up but the world has moved on."

If Strafford's plans are successful there will be a lot more of an American influence at Hillsborough over the next few years. He is actively looking for investors and has targeted the American market. Investment bank Inner Circle has agreed to help The Owls find a consortium or a wealthy individual to put £20m into the club. Strafford beams when he talks about Inner Circle, which is apparently extremely choosy when it comes to selecting its clients.

The plan is that the £20m will not be used to clear the club's debts, which are actually more than £20m but apparently under control after negotiations with the club's principal creditors. Instead it will be used to help the club grow and develop.

Lee Strafford wants to see more Wednesday fans supporting the team at HillsboroughStrafford talks with great enthusiasm about the huge potential for growth at Wednesday and you can see his point. It is a club with a long tradition and history, a sizeable fanbase and a big stadium. He wants to steadily bring supporters back to the club, which will in turn increase revenue and allow more investment in the team.

"When you look at the things we want to do they are credible - it is not as though we are saying we are going to be playing Champions League football in three years," he said.

Obviously actually finding an investor is crucial to all this - a process that the chairman is confident will happen but one he admits has been more difficult than he initially anticipated.

The investors, in theory, will remain in the background but make money because the club is making money and Strafford will remain as chairman to steer the club towards a return to past glories.

But why is Strafford, so inexperienced in the world of football, confident that he will be a success as chairman?

The chairman built the technology company he eventually sold to BT from scratch, shortly before he become more actively involved with Wednesday and he describes it as a fast-moving business, with a high turnover of staff and a product line that changed ever year.

"Football is less complicated than the technology sector and not as fast moving as I would like - and that is one of the opportunities," he said.

Strafford talks in terms of "talent workers", both the people who deal with the running of the club and the football staff - and is confident he can create the structure and the environment that will allow them to succeed.

He also has plenty of ideas in terms of how the internet can help the club grow. Some seem obvious, like the new ticketing system that comes into effect on 14 July (Strafford describes this as the day when his club finally enters the 21st century). Others, such as community-focused learning platforms that can be accessed through the club's website, sound more ambitious. Perhaps in this regard other chairman without his grasp of technology and how it can help a club grow are at a disadvantage. Strafford certainly seems to shares this view.

I was left with the impression that Strafford loves to work. He jokes that he spends so much time trying to realise his vision for Wednesday that his wife is always threatening to divorce him. He is constantly in touch with manager Brian Laws as they look to develop the playing staff as well as the wider running of the club.

When I asked him what he does in his spare time he replied that he does not have any. If he wants to watch a television programme he views it on-demand at a time of his choosing. He operates very much in the modern world, in tune with technology.

As our time drew to a close I thanked Lee for his time, fearful of the hours it would take to transcribe his thoughts. "No problem dude, any time," said Strafford.

The last time I heard anybody call someone dude I was watching The Big Lebowski. Without question, Wednesday have an interesting man at the helm.

I guess only time will tell whether his philosophy will bring about a renaissance at Hillsborough but I would love to hear the views of any Wednesday fans about the man now running their club.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good article.

    It's good to finally see something being done at Hillsborough. Over the past few years it's been all talk, manager firing and finger pointing. May sound a tad cliche but Stafford has brought what the club needed most. Stability.

    The course of our downfall was in the mid-90's we spent lots of money on rather average players (Di canio and Carbone being to exception :P) but Laws seems to have a good head on his shoulders in the transfer market and the loan signing towards the back end of last season prove that.

    People are finally beginning to see The owls as a big club again and i think both Laws and Stafford (Aswell as the fans) should feel good about that.

    Lets hope that this is the start of something beautiful.


  • Comment number 2.

    Lee Strafford has taken up the reins of our beloved club like it was his life's calling and in many ways I suspect it was. In a very short space of time he has re-built a shattered relationship with fans and for the first time in a long -time we have a Chairman we can trust. It is still early days and we must be careful not to put him up on a pedestal to be knocked-off. However patience has always been a virtue of the Owls fan and I have very little doubt that Lee will be at the helm for a good time to come steering us resolutely back towards the "promised land"!

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes, it's good to see a positive article about Wednesday. There's a real feeling of well-being at Hillsborough now.

    I met Nick Parker, and he came across as someone who has a genuine belief in what the management are striving to achieve. His enthusiasm came across really well and it augers well for the club and the fans as a whole.

    I wish them well and fully intend to be part of it, if not at every game, certainly as many as I can.

  • Comment number 4.

    Fantastic article about another false dawn at Swillsborough. In all honesty I think this guy seems to have his head more screwed on, however he's building SWFC up to be something there not, £20m in debt, no training ground of their own anymore, dwindling support and living off the 90's..... which are nearly 20 years ago now. They don't add up to something someone with mega bucks wants to buy into..... anyway all the best next season a Sheffield 1-2 finish would be good, as long as we're top! Up the Blades

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    All good stuff thus far, and it takes a bright man to recognise and be open about his weaknesses, and it seems the right people are being put in place to plug the gaps.

    I too was hugely please to see us donate out sponsorship, which is big statement for a club who are skint, as Villa and Barca (the only others I can think of) aren't without a bob or two.

    The only thing I'd really like to see is some solid commitment to youth development (I don't even want transfer money as the last lot was thoroughly wasted on Franny). We've done okay recently with Spurr and Beevers but look at the Sty, they're about to shift their 2 full backs for upwards of £10mil. That's how we need to kick on and clear our debts.

  • Comment number 7.

    How dim can you get, Owls fan of many years standing HA!

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hmmm, it is quite an ill conceived name though given the circumstances

  • Comment number 11.

    The new chairman has only been since january and straight away he made a difference. Simple things like telling the fans what they wanted to achieve and how. Even telling us about potential investment which seems to be kept under wraps until certain.
    As well as this hes brought a feel of common sense leadership, making the club more fan accessable, making the club more about the fans, and involving the entire community, something that has just not been done to far.
    I think giving the shirt sponsor to the childrens hospital (and giving a 1 pound to them for every shirt sold) is a real class act in todays game which is dominated by money. It has been said previously but barca and villa have done it but they arent exactly short a few quid!
    These changes have been well recieved and the club is a much more positive place to be now, shown by the season tickets sales which are way up on previous years.
    Some good signings have been made and with a bit of luck we might have a decent season!

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Its great to finally read something positive about Wednesday. Strafford definitely wants to see the club move forward and I think we've finally got the right people in place (including Laws) to do this. However I can't help but wonder whether his business plan (which includes selling 16,500 season tickets next season) is a little too ambitious in the short run, especially when he's got so many Wednesday fans to win over after years of heartache both on and off the pitch. I guess the vital ingredient in all this is whether he manages to secure the investment needed to really take the club forward. Still, things are looking up.

  • Comment number 14.

    boring... lets see what happen's in the league.

  • Comment number 15.

    Indian Blade youve written a sensible reply so Ill give you a sensible response.

    I can assure you that this is not a false dawn at Hillsborough. Lee Strafford is doing all the simple things which should have been done years ago by the previous lot. They were happy to let us stagnate and rot, never attempting to make progress. We were happy to wallow in our own self pity rather than trying to do something constructive about our situation.

    Lee Strafford is doing wonders for the club. Its the basics ticket prices, seating arrangements, club merchandise all the little revenue streams which weve neglected to bother with up until now. They cost nothing to implement, between them bring in only relatively small money but collectively add up to something far bigger.

    The most important contribution hes made (for me) is the change in attitude and the way that they club interacts with the community and its supporters. The previous lot liked to ignore everyone in the community Were SWFC, were too important to get involved with the people around us, they liked to call any supporter who disagreed with their management of the club cretins and scum (a direct quote)

    The Childrens Hospital sponsorship is a fantastic example of how weve changed and were we want to be going. Our shirt sponsorship costs us little, but the publicity and good will that brings to our clubs is priceless. Im proud that weve made that gesture.

    On the investment side, things arent as straightforward. I dont think that Lee (or anyone else should for that matter) believe that a Russian or American billionaire is going to buy us and turn us into the next Chelsea or Man City. Im not even convinced that Id even want that sort of investor. It would be nice to be able to buy any player we wanted, but I think football clubs lose something important when they become a rich mans plaything.

    We a reasonable if not spectacular opportunity for a mid sized investor. We have a debt of around £20-25M, but in football league terms thats actually pretty small fry. If I had to guess Id bet were under the average debt for a FL club. What is important is that debt is stable and not under any threat of changing. Its all with the bank which have been very supportive of what we want to do.

    Be have all our assets Stadium, training facilities (despite what you say, that is still ours. We never did get round to selling it). Theyre all paid for, they cost us nothing.

    Weve got a decent, squad of young players. We owe very little in transfer fees. The wage bill is small for a Championship team and weve got a good, stable management team.

    We make a small profit every year unlike a lot of clubs.

    Im not so unrealistic to expect that well romp the league but for the first time in as long as I can remember weve looking forward with the solid foundations in place and a plan in mind to where we want to go.


  • Comment number 16.

    Hmm, the website appears to have ate most of my punctuation - apologies if that is harder to read than I intended...

  • Comment number 17.

    I am very sceptical...especially Wilkinson's role at the club is nothing more than a 'figurehead' and he actually does not do anything whatsoever at the club(I know this as he is a good family friend).
    Then there is the shocking debacle of asking fans to come down and paint the stands, that was nothing short of turning the club into a laughing stock.
    The whole American debacle also sounds like a joke(there is a cracking article on the Sheffield star website), where it talks about the consortium he wants to put together. He is basically wanting 20 people to put a million pound each in. But Bill will only invest if Bob does and Bob won't invest if Trevor does!! We are not buying a timeshare here!!
    Yes he speaks very well and yes it's great that he's a wednesday fan and has club at heart but the fact is he personally doesn't have the money we need to take the club forward. Yes his company was sold for a lot of money but he only personally got a fraction of that from the sale. But speaking well and talking a good game is all well and good but apart from doing the noble thing of shirt sponsor with the childrens hospital what has he actually done? Yes it's a nice gesture and gives us a little good publicity but the fact is how wise a move is it? Shirt sponsorship is something with our current debts and financial crisis that we could probably do with.
    He tried to re structure club loans, and even though it maybe was not his fault it still didn't work out. He has set unrealistic targets with season ticket sales. He has even claimed we are a possible ground for 2018 world cup!! That will never happen in a million years, our ground is old and delapadated and even the likes of Darlington, Mk dons have much better brand new stadiums. Granted the ground is big, but it's in a shocking state, hence come down with your paintbrush!!
    I don't want to sound negative and I hope he does succeed, but with the last 10years of rubbish being spourted at the club, I can't help but feel very secptical until he actually follows through with some of his promises. Talking is one thing but delivering them is a completely different ball game. Yes he's new to the role and he is still learning, so he should be given time to deliver. But as we loyal fans keep waiting, the shadow from our red and white neighbours is growing bigger and bigger over us.

  • Comment number 18.

    Great article, all the best to Wednesday for the future. I agree with davehanc (though I'm a Blade), Wednesday have got a fantastic manager and players who want to play for him and the club. I hope Strafford's plans really work, it would be great to see Wednesday back up there. But no going back to how the business was run in the late 90's please, overrated players bought on bank credit which the club are still paying back. Be great to see both Sheffield teams in the Prem again, with some proper foundations!

  • Comment number 19.

    The main things that LS has brought to the club over his short tenure are belief and unity. As you've said in your article, many of the fans became disillusioned with a club all too eager to turn its back on it's fans. Now we have a chairman at the helm who is taking active steps to return the feel-good factor at Hillsborough and for the first time in years, we finally feel we are a club with real aspirations of progression.

    As you've noted, LS hasn't told us he's going to get us in the champions league in three years, quite the opposite, he has told us the aim is to get to the premiership by the 2012/13 season. Part of this new regime is realism and honesty with the fans. We now feel that we can rely on accurate communication from the higher echelons of the club and this in turn helps us feel more valued and respected as supporters.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hey sheffrangers,

    Give the new Wednesday Chairman a chance, after all it took McCabe & co time to build the Blades up into a working business model, and we're still struggling to get the team right. I think Laws is worth his wait in gold for you guys. And if the Wednesday play every game like they did against United (twice) last season they'll have a chance of being near the top next season.

    p.s. you're still the bigger club, look at your away support which is fantastic

  • Comment number 21.

    It's the mentality and attitude of Lee Strafford and his team that I really like.

    As a lifelong Wednesday fan I've been through the high's and lows of the last 30 years with childlike excitement and old-headed cynicism and despondency but this is the first time I can honestly say that someone is prepared to improve my club.

    For me the key thing is the LACK of grand statements about league performance and transfer kitties - they're talking about initiative that increase the ground level impact of the club in the community and are an investment in the future of Sheffield Wednesday that has been a long time coming.

    Equally as important in my opinion is the fact that this approach seems to have real synergy with the footballing management style that Brian Laws has brought to the club - the signings he has made add calibre and depth to the clubs playing staff and whilst none of them are world beaters they are all quality players who know how to scrap but critically know how to get out of the division - priceless experience for our young squad when the time comes.

    As a side note, the sponsorship of the Childrens Hospital IS a touch of class - and everyone in this region knows someone that "The Childrens" has helped or positively affected (in my own immediate circle of friends and family the hospital has saved the lives of three young children in the last 5 years - including my own son). I have, and always will have a great amount of respect and support for anybody who helps it out (yes - even that lot from Bramall Lane !!) but I also think it's an incredibly SMART move to help restore the faith of the community in the club - it's undeniable that since the sponsorship was announced there has been a groundswell of support for Strafford and his new regime in the area and on the internet - a very, very smart move indeed from a profile perspective whilst also genuinely benefitting a truly valuable part of our city's infrastructure and culture.

    Finally, even though there is talk of overseas investment, to me it is a sign of these new times that Strafford is talking about silent partners, investment rather than control, that allows the people close to the club and with the experience and passion to drive us forward to make the key decisions that count. This is far removed from many of the takeovers currently happening around Britain and is, I think, critical to our long term development and success.

    All in all, I think the influence that Lee Strafford has had on the club, even in such a short time, is guaranteed to enthuse the fans, and the more he delivers on his promises the more fans he will win over and bring back to the club.

  • Comment number 22.

    Lee Strafford has galvanised the club and brought all the fractions together, if he achieves nothing more then he has been a huge success.

    He was instrumental in increasing attendances last season and Season Ticket sales are up around 20% this summer, some achievement during a recession!

  • Comment number 23.

    Hmmmm this is SheffRangers one and only comment.....any one else think he's a very very sad person indeed.

    What LS has done is bring enthusiasm and hope back to our club. And that is enough for me as we havent had anything to shout about for a long time.

  • Comment number 24.

    "The investors, in theory, will remain in the background but make money because the club is making money and Strafford will remain as chairman to steer the club towards a return to past glories."

    Can anyone show me a English Football club who is making profits large enough to satisfy an investor. For example a club that over the years will bring more money in than investing the money in say a portfolio of shares in blue chip companies over a number of years?

    No where does he say what big thing he is going to different to achieve this. Apart from bring back Howard Wilkinson, bring back the band and bring back the mascot. Nothing new! It may make the Sheffield Wednesday fans happier but will it impress an American investor who knows nothing about football just how to get the best return for his £20 million?

  • Comment number 25.

    @ Mansfield Blade - Everything that he's done so far is different.

  • Comment number 26.

    Maybe different to how things have been run at Sheffield Wednesday in the past. But my point was that no club is making a profit, if for example in the championship, the top six clubs were making healthy profits (or even if a large amount of Premier League clubs), and it would be reasonable for Wednesday to go to investors and say we are a big club but fallen on hard times, if you invested £20 million in the club we would be able to match the profits them clubs are making. But as it is now he has got to explain why he thinks Sheffield Wednesday will be different to all the other clubs and without some great revolutionary idea that no one has thought of before and is so simple that it is easily explained. I can not see anyone investing as a silent partner.

  • Comment number 27.

    As a Huddersfield Town fan, I would like to add that not only Villa and Barca have shirt sponsors of a registered do Huddersfield....The Yorkshire Air Ambulance service.
    I do hope Sheff Wed can turn it around, as they have always been my '2nd' club. A sleeping giant is a very apt way to describe them.

  • Comment number 28.

    @ Mansfield Blade

    Wednesday made a profit before interest and taxation of £3.11 million last year and Turnover was up nearly 9% to £12.32 million with match receipts and associated turnover increased nearly 18% to £6.83 million.

    And that was BEFORE Lee became chairman officially, We have already beaten last seasons season ticket total.

    I can only see us going from strength to strength next season and with some investment we can seriously compete for promotion.


  • Comment number 29.

    Been happy to see the club making forward steps- definitely in terms of fan relations. However, I still feel Dave Allen despite his obvious faults still did ok for us and I don't like seeing him getting all of the abuse for our state of affairs- he could have handled the fans better I agree, but he did steady the ship, when he got Turner in they cleared out all of the old guard players and pretty much laid a foundation from which lee strafford can hopefully build upon.

    I am slightly concerned by his love of American values in sport- Randy Lerner is the only one who I would be happy investing and I think he's busy at the moment! - i don't want to see Amercians (or any other nationality) come in with no real affection for the club and essentially try and make us into a premiership team cash cow where the real fans can't get tickets or afford it etc. I'd rather sttuggle in the championship under our own stewardship.

    As wednesday fans we know not to get our hopes up too early, but if we do things in the right way, invest in youth as we have been doing and can eventually become a self sustaining club then I will be a happy Owl no matter what league we're in.

    The double over the pigletts last season has done no harm to his reputation either!

    Up the Owls.

  • Comment number 30.

    Small strides lead to big steps!
    A realistic top 8 finish this season i think with a little hope of creeping into the playoffs and then as you know, the play offs are a lottery!
    One thing is for sure we have 1 of the best managers in the league who can work on small budgets! wait till he gets a big budget then we'll see what we can really do.
    Big praise for mr Strafford he has brought new foundations and hope to a beleaguered club and knows that investments is the key like so many other clubs. ........WEDNESDAY ALL THE WAY.........

  • Comment number 31.


  • Comment number 32.

    At times like these I think you have to work out why you put your support into a football club. Is it purely for success? For some supporters perhaps it is, but clearly not for all, otherwise there would be few fans outside the top 4.

    In truth, most wednseday fans have never really tasted success. Even the best times (of the modern era) saw us lose 2 cup finals in a year and finish third at best. The Rumbelows cup was one of the best days of my life, but lets face it, its not something you throw into pub conversations to impress. Cardiff was also great, but we were celebrating in the knowledge that we were the 6th best team in League 2.

    For me, the club is about representing the city, and its folk. For a time I was ashamed of the insults and defamation threats been bandied around at Hillsborough. We were a bit of laughing stock, at least to the extent that anyone cared. So if Lee Strafford and the new regime have reconciled the factions and consolidated the financial situation, that can only be welcomed. If it enables the club to in time rejuvinate, all the better.

    Apart from Rochdale, football clubs' fortunes are generally cyclical. It might be another 5 years, perhaps another 10, but sooner or later we will have a good season. And some success. Hopefully that means we will emulate a club like Stoke or Burnley, or even United, and play again in the Premiership. What is clear is that we're not going to be the next Man City or Chelsea. 20 years ago we might have had a claim to be a big club, but now as young fans are recruited and the old ones acclimatise to the lower leagues, I think that most accept that we are a medium sized club in a big city, with the potential to become big again if it goes well.

    But a big and proud city like Sheffield should have big and proud club and I don't believe we could ever become big without a sizeable core of fans being proud of it. If that's all that Strafford achieves in the next 2-3 years, I'll be happy.

  • Comment number 33.

    sheffrangers.....i never want to say anything bad against any wednesday fan, but you have to be positive about the new chairman, would you rather we were stuck with the old lot not achieving anything, not even promising to achieve anything.
    surely some hope is better than no hope at all.
    we arent stupid, we realise that things might not go perfect, but at least the guy is trying, at least hes giving us something to believe in.
    Stop living in the negative times, hes got me and i,m sure quite a few others believing that sheff weds is a better place to be.
    One step at a time mate, and we are certainly taking a step in the right direction.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have been a fan all my life, first standing on the Kop as a kid in the '69 / '70 season. Up till two years ago, I was an executive member, my wife and I having a day out, with the meal etc. All good stuff.

    The attitude of the previous Chairman forced me to not renew my tickets for the next season, as I didn't enjoy spending £4K a year just to be frustrated all the time. Not with the football, but with the immature amateur regime. Not easy to boo the Chairman from the director's box, but I managed it..

    Lee Strafford is a breath of fresh air. I support his aims 100% and cannot wait to be back for the opening home game.


  • Comment number 35.

    Lee Strafford has got the right attitude to take the club forward. No risky giant strides, but careful, prudent and calculated small steps. It is the right pace. We are no longer stood still, or shuffling nervously around the same old spot. His approach has blown out the cobwebs at the club, and there is a new energy at Hillsborough. What he is looking to achieve is the footballing equivalent of reversing global warming.


  • Comment number 36.

    I feel more optimistic about the forthcoming season than I have for years.

    LS is an OWL and he is making moves that the fans can relate to. He understands the fans mentality but still treats the Club as a business.

    It is only at a fledgling level but slowly but surely belief is creeping back amongst fans, players and staff at the Club. We are buying the right players, albeit on free transfers and are building a squad that should be able to compete better next season than we have done for years.

    Thanks Lee, here's to the future.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good luck to Lee Strafford in his attempt to drag Wednesday out of the mire. Unfortunately the old guard are still dragging their feet in particular Dave Allen the previous chairman who insists on his loans being paid back fully, wheras other interested parties including the Co-op Bank have agreed to write a big percentage of the £25million debt.This is the same Dave Allen who now is the chairman of Chesterfield but technically still owns 9.9% of Wednesday to stay within League rules.
    Mr Strafford has brought a great deal of goodwill into the club and has made it a happier place to be at, such as consulting Howard Wilkinson and Alan Smith, also involving former legends like David Hirst and Chris waddle at matchdays. Unfortunately the bad atmosphere created by the previous regime has brassed many off including this writer who is banned, it takes more than goodwill to bring these fans back. Obviously results on the pitch are vital and on that front Brian Laws is progressing in the right direction despite being severely financially handicapped as Wednesday have one of the lowest wage bills in The Championship. Things will be harder in the new season as the big teams like Middlesbrough and Newcastle drop down from The Premier League.
    So good luck Mr Strafford, lets hope the promised investment from the US turns out to be true, a Randy Lerner type rather than a Hicks/Gillett type.
    Up the Owls!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Poor, poor little Wendy!

    Always the basket case.

  • Comment number 39.

    Look at the time of SteelCityBlades last comment.
    Is all the worry keeping you awake at night?
    So far so good LS, you've won our trust now let's get the results.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why is terryjippo pretending to be a Blade? Very sad. I'm a Blade but the Owls are still bigger he says. Yeah right. The Blades have more ST holders, an average crowd 5,000 more than the Owls and only Wolves averaged more than the Blades in away support last season. Fact.

  • Comment number 41.

    As a Donny fan I have to say I wish him all the best. Football needs more chairmen like this who have a genuine love and affection for their teams. We have a local-man-made-good as chairman too and it's the best thing that's happened to our club in decades, bringing us back from the brink of extinction.

    Patience and stability are the keys here, hopefully the Owls will find both now after all the turmoil of recent years - good luck in the forthcoming season :)

  • Comment number 42.

    I hate fans creating a user name to pretend they follow a different side. Terryjippo is not a blade. Sheffranger (he couldn't even bring himself to write owl or wednesday in it) is not a wednesday fan. We can see right through you both.

    LS has done wonders, I've never bothered with a season ticket until now and I can't wait. There is something about LS enthusiasm and positivity that is so infectious. I just which another 3000 fans would do the same as me. Still !4,000 season tickets will be a much improved crowd on last year plus the 1000 odd freebies.

    Well done LS and always question the identity of those who criticise without a word of praise for LS.

  • Comment number 43.

    We hope Sheffield for the best.


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