Another fairytale bankrolled by a Thai?

Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Ross Wallace celebrates his goal against Brighton and Hove Albion in their Championship play-off semi-final. He netted in both legs.
Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Ross Wallace celebrates his goal against Brighton and Hove Albion in their Championship play-off semi-final. He netted in both legs.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Another club, owned by a Thai businessman, is set to rock English football this season.

Sheffield Wednesday will attempt to return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence today.

If they prevail over Hull City in the Championship play-off final, they would have pulled off something amazing, similar to what rank outsiders Leicester City, owned by Thai duty-free retail giant Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, did by winning the Premier League title a few weeks ago.

Wednesday certainly have it in them to achieve that feat, moving to 90 minutes of seeing Premier league action, after twice being relegated to England's third tier and almost going into financial ruin since 2000.

Their upswing has coincided with the club's purchase in January last year by Dejphon Chansiri, whose family owns Thai Union Group, a major canned tuna producer.

Last season, the Owls enjoyed their highest league finish since relegation to League One, reaching 13th place in the Championship, matching the club's clean sheet record in the process.

This season, they have surprisingly finished sixth, qualifying for the end-of-season play-offs.

They have been hitting the right notes in Portuguese manager Carlos Carvalhal's first season and they defeated Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 on aggregate in their semi-final.

Midfielder Barry Bannan believes the club, who will today be making their first trip to Wembley since 1993, are fully capable of making it to the Premier League.

"Hull will go rightly in as favourites because they finished above us in the league but we know what we're capable of," he said of the Tigers, who were fourth. "If we do what we know we can do, then hopefully the result will be ours.

"There is only one way for this club and it's up, so hopefully we can start by getting into the Premier League."

With television revenue for Premier League clubs due to increase next season, the winner of the second-tier showdown at Wembley will land a record cash windfall to go along with their place in the top flight.

Wednesday would earn at least £170 million (S$342.51 million) from promotion and that figure could rise to £290 million if they avoid relegation.

Hull can also expect a huge revenue boost if they triumph, although the value to them is less, at £110 million. They will have to forgo some parachute payments following their relegation from the Premier League last year.

But Hull manager Steve Bruce is not worried about trying to improve the club's bank balance because he knows his players are solely focused on achieving a promotion that will allow them to face the country's best on the biggest stage.

"The one thing about footballers that they don't worry about when they go on to a pitch is money. For them it's to perform on the biggest stage and who's going to be the hero," said the 55-year-old, who could become the first manager to achieve four promotions to the Premier League.

"We've got some good players and let's hope we can achieve what we want to achieve."

Hull finished nine points above Wednesday in the Championship, but there was nothing to separate the Yorkshire rivals in their two draws this season.

Bruce's team looked impressive in their 3-0 play-off semi-final, first-leg win at Derby, but gave a less solid showing in a 2-0 loss in the second leg.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Another fairytale bankrolled by a Thai?'. Print Edition | Subscribe