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So Serbian football fans have been getting a lot of bad press lately thanks to the fans of Red Star Belgrade running riot in Italy, and their not so subtle connection to war crimes committed during the Balkan Wars. Milan Mandaric is an example of the exact opposite, loves football, and has spend the last 9 years of his life trying to pull the smaller club that bind the fabric of English football together back from the brink.

Mardaric is an interesting character, and loves football above all else. Before he was forced to flee the then Communist state of Yugoslavia in 1969, he played for F.C. Lika in the city of Novi Sad and worked as business man. After fleeing to the US, having left most of his fortune and family behind, he worked in the up and coming tech industry in Silicon Valley. He prospered, and once again began to invest in his passion, football. He started several teams in the United States, and was involved wit the ill-fated NASL, hoping to bring soccer to the masses. While it never worked out for him in the US, he turned his focus to Europe, owning several forgettable Belgian and French clubs before finally buying Portsmouth in 1998.

While in charge, he help steer them back to the top and into the Premiership by appointing Harry Redknapp as the manager. Never afraid to invest, but not quick to squander, he sold his remaining share of Portsmouth to Gaydamak, but stayed on as a figurehead in his role as non-executive chairman. Mandari? resigned as chairman of Portsmouth on 21 September 2006. Since then, Portsmouth appeared to prosper, with successive top-10 Premier League finishes and an FA Cup win in 2008; however, the club was relegated in 2010. Regardless, he pulled the club back from the brink of obscurity, and will be forever remembered fondly by the Portsmouth faithful.

Following his departure from Portsmouth, in 2007 Mandaric took over the troubled club, Leicester City. Having fallen on hard times, a new owner was need to steady the ship and reinvigorate the club. Again he was successful, with club nearly achieving promotion through two leagues in two consecutive seasons. He sold the club to a wealthy Thai consortium last year, and they are still going strong, despite some management issues of late. Regardless, Mandaric saved the club from collapse, and managed to save it for the city of Leicester.

There’s a pattern here, where Mandaric buys a small club, cleverly invest money, hires the right people, and drags the club back into the light. Much is made of the great football managers in the modern game, Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Rafael Benitez, but little is said of the greatness of owners. Maybe its because their are more of Malcolm Glazer’s ilk crawling forth from the primordial gutter ooze, but Mandaric deserves credit for his commitment to saving struggling second tier clubs, not just buying up the successful ones. I’ve always believed something built is better than something bought, it seems Mandaric agrees. The recent rumors linking him with Sheffield Wednesday can only lead to great things for the club if he does go through with a takeover, and I for one look forward to seeing them survive their recent financial troubles.

Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com


About the author: Matthew Wall


I've played soccer since I could walk thanks to my father and love keeping up on all the latest gear and gab. I'm in my twenties, and I'm lucky enough to have found work in search marketing for a leading soccer retailer after completing my M.A. at Georgetown in 2008. My team is Liverpool, and national side is Ireland, but I've also got a passion for GAA and a number of sports. Feel free to give me a shout on Google+


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