Sixy Talk – Having a Meire

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The summer break has done little to dampen the work ethic here at the Pie at Night and with the first game of the season just days away, we were all set to travel to Sheffield to track down a Wednesday fan to ask some, frankly pointless, questions. Then we realised that was just stupid, our laziness kicked in and we took to the internet to find someone instead.

They say you should never trust a journo, but beggars can’t be choosers and when Roy Hattersley didn’t reply to our DMs, we had no choice but to grasp Paul Kendrick’s suggestion that we get in touch with his mate Andy McElwaine with both hands and hope that he didn’t bring up the tricky issue of why we use an owl as our podcast logo.

Andy is an Sheffield-born exiled Wednesday fan who has lived in London since 2007. He has suffered on the most part watching The Owls at over 60 grounds up and down the country over the years, with the nadir coming in a 4-0 defeat to Leyton Orient in January 2011. While witnessing first hand the talents of such cloggers as Craig Armstrong, David Graham and Jon Beswetherick, he also is old enough to fondly remember when Wednesday were a force in the English game when the likes of Chris Waddle, John Sheridan, Roland Nilsson and David Hirst wore the famous blue and white stripes.

But, what is his favourite pie filling?

1) Someone has just told me the football season starts on Saturday. It’s the first week in August, for crying out loud. Surely there’s something better we could be doing?

Don’t talk wet. There’s nothing better than real football being back. The World Cup was great, and it has been an enjoyable summer but Saturdays (or Sundays, or Friday evenings, or rearranged Tuesday trips because of cup replays) are always more important when The Owls are playing. Last season was a bit of a damp squib for us, so hopefully we can get off to a decent start and not disgrace ourselves too much this season.

2) How’s things anyway? Did you miss us whilst we were away? Did we miss anything?

I’ve got a lot of time for Latics. A team who have punched above their weight for many a year. Huge achievements getting to the Premier League and performing well there for a number of seasons, reaching (and winning) cup finals when no one expected them to. I hope this season you don’t prove to be one of those teams who are too good for League One but not good enough for the Championship again. Always look out for them too as one of my old colleagues, Paul Kendrick, does a top job for the local paper there. Did you miss anything? Well from a Wednesday point of view, no. Last season was over in December. However we are now back in stripes which is far more palatable on the eye than the kits we wore the last two years – think of Wednesday playing in Ipswich kits. But this league does seem to spend more money each and every year. Even Forest are paying over £10m on new midfielders. Wednesday are trying to cut their cloth accordingly after spending/wasting their money on new ‘talent’ which hasn’t worked out, but I think we are in for an interesting season nether the less. Now the FFP bug has bitten so we have to curb our enthusiasm somewhat.

3) There can’t be many other more exciting ways to start a season than a trip to Wigan. What are you looking forward to the most about it and the season ahead?

It’s a difficult trip. Wigan are buoyed by an impressive promotion where they tore teams apart at will, however, we will have nearly 5,000 fans make the trip over the Pennines for the game and will be up for a good singsong. Expectations are a little mixed with us at the moment due to no new signings, although having been decimated by injuries last season, the majority of our key players are back fit, with a few notable exceptions to come back in September. And because some of them haven’t even played under Jos Luhukay yet, it will be fascinating to see how he plays them. If we can keep the key ones fit, I think we can make a play-off push this year but just about fall short.

4) With Latics’ far eastern takeover still pending, what are your three top tips for surviving excitable foreign owners?

Firstly, expect the unexpected. Mr Chansiri took a real hands on approach to managing the club, in a good and a bad way. His heart is in the right place but there have been a few surprises along the way. Additionally, ticket prices, kit prices, memberships, corporate seating have have risen in cost which have disgruntled the fanbase. He did appoint the much-maligned Katrien Meire of former Charlton Athletic fame as CEO and she’s done a cracking job so far despite initial skepticism of her appointment. He has also opened the doors to fans to have various forums which are scheduled for two-three hours but have very often gone on until the wee hours as he tries to answer every question.

Secondly, be respectful to the new owners’ culture. Our Thai chairman has had Thai monks at the ground to bless the team (didn’t work last year!), wooden elephants and even a tribute to Thailand’s late king before a match at Hillsborough. He’s incredibly respectful man, as the Thais usually are, and he gets it back. He has embraced the club, embraced the city and is held in high regard on the most part, despite fans criticising his pricing policy.

Lastly, get out of your comfort zone. When one owner has been in charge for a long time at a club, things seem to run pretty much like clockwork, but when someone comes in from a different country and has a different outlook, things can change, quickly! Be ready to embrace change, some of it good and some of it not so great. But it’s a fun ride on the whole!

5) Oh, the game. Are your fans more worried that a) they won’t recognise any of your team, b) you’ll get an embarrassing opening day defeat or c) Galloways will have sold out of their new deep filled chunky steak pies before you get to town? (Whilst we’re at it, what’s your prediction for the game, who should we be worried about and who are you worried about from our team?)

No danger of Wednesday fans not knowing who any players are. At the time of writing we haven’t made any signings and I don’t expect us to! If Wednesday win, sections of our fans won’t be happy unless we do it akin to how Brazil won the 1970 World Cup. I would take a scrappy 1-0 win with Wigan having 85% of the play. If we do lose, others will think it’s the worst thing in the world and Twitter will become an even more horrific place than it usually is.

Apparently the pies at Wigan are world class. I have wanted to try them many a time. Let’s hope they also have ample stocks of Henderson’s Relish – a Sheffield staple condiment which goes incredibly good with pies. I doubt though anyone outside of Sheffield has ever heard of it, and more fool them for that.

In terms of players to look out for on the home side, Grigg is always a threat and McManaman will want to do well against his old club. He was an odd one at Hillsborough while on loan here two years ago. Looked up for a fight with an opponent every game and didn’t really do much to endear himself to the S6 crowd. Power and Powell have done well in recent years in midfield so we will have to keep them two quiet.

6) This is the bit where we usually ask people about pies, your favourite flavour and how you eat them (tell us that if you want), but this season we’re trying to take things more seriously. So, in the spirit of scientific research, name your top three hot foods that should be eaten by hand. If burger isn’t one of them, explain why not.

I’m not that into pies in fairness. I went into a pub in London recently and ordered a chicken and chorizo pie which sounded immense. They forgot to mention that there was only two minuscule pieces of said meats in there, with the rest of it cheese. It was one of the most hideous things I’ve ever had the displeasure to taste and may have put me off pies for life. When I have had a pie at grounds before, I usually go for the chicken balti. But I have noticed the temperature of many of them appear that the pie was cooked on the sun, which again puts me off. In terms of this important scientific research, I will give you them in order: Pizza, kebabs and burgers. Although I have often eaten these dishes with knives and forks when at a fancy restaurant. Woe is me indeed.

Cheers Andy, we’ll keep those answers on file, but we may need to pass our concerns about you eating pizzas with cutlery on to the appropriate authorities, they may be in touch…

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