Gary Megson's ginger hair is thinning but the remaining strands still shine bonfire bright.
They mirror a personality that, apart from fulfilling almost every stereotype about fiery redheads, offers Sheffield Wednesday a lifeline their players have yet to grasp.
Almost two months since Megson succeeded Alan Irvine as manager, results are so disappointing that a club that, less than 20 years ago, were regarded as among the Premier League's biggest, hover, ignominiously, four points above League One's relegation zone.
The enduring hurt of Tuesday's 3-1 defeat by Brentford at Hillsborough, where this son of a Wednesday player who grew up to captain the club is still waiting to celebrate his first home managerial win, seems painfully apparent as he details the task ahead. "To me passion is not something you hope you've got in a player, it's a prerequisite," says Megson, eyes burning with evangelical zeal. "Without passion, without drive you can't do anything. You've got to play with your heart on your sleeve."
As, mere yards away, Sheffield's famous trams whizz up and down the adjacent street, the former West Bromwich Albion, Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers manager bemoans a similar lack of relentless efficiency in his squad. "Some of the things that go on at this club beggar belief; we've got one or two who are ducking it," the 51-year-old says. "They're costing us goals by not winning tackles they should win and I'm angry. We've been making some pansy-like challenges. I don't want kicking and I do want fluency but you've got to win the ball."
When Irvine was sacked Wednesday – four times English champions and with three FA Cups and one League Cup to their name – had failed to turn last spring's relegation from the Championship into a promotion challenge and taken three points from a potential 30. Although things have improved slightly under Megson their last League victory at Hillsborough came on 11 December and it is with understandable hyperbole that he bills Colchester United's visit to South Yorkshire on Saturday as the season's biggest game.
The abiding frustration is that at the end of a year featuring three narrowly staved off winding-up orders Milan Mandaric finally warded off the threat off administration last November. With the former Portsmouth and Leicester owner buying the club for £1 – although he did settle an outstanding £1.8m tax debt while also handing another debtor, the Co-op Bank, £7m – Wednesdayites were suffused with a hope that has been sorely tested by recent results.
Yet if the 40,000-capacity Hillsborough at times appears like a mausoleum, crowds have rarely dropped below what is, in the circumstances, an eminently respectable 15,000. "Our position really does hurt," Megson says. "But we've got the best supporters in the country by an absolute street. It's easy to support Man United or Liverpool but it's not easy to turn up at Dagenham & Redbridge when your club is historically huge and should be one of the biggest in the country."
The trouble is that undoubtedly gifted individuals, such as the former Liverpool midfielder Darren Potter, have on occasion looked as washed out as Wednesday's once state-of-the-art training ground, a complex Mandaric has said is "tired".
Megson's irritation is palpable, so much so that he has taken the extraordinary step of addressing every player individually this week. "I've asked them if they're up for the effort and they've all responded in a positive way," he says. "We've got to start taking the initiative, we've got to start playing as though our lives depend on it."
Sometimes the sheer force of Megson's passion arguably undermines his charges. "There are times when I lose it in the technical area," he says. "I behave like that because Wednesday means so much more to me than any other club I've been at but I've got to be careful I don't go too far and frighten the lads."
Even so, he senses a need for rather more carrot than stick. "We've got to address our problem with playing at Hillsborough. Our crowd and huge stadium are big advantages we need to start using. We've got to stop standing off the opposition at home and start tearing into them."
If "wellying into" opponents has undeniably been a recurring theme of Megson's managerial modus operandi the "Ginger Mourinho" who led West Brom into the Premier League and, against considerable odds, kept Bolton part of it, is nowhere near as tactically one-dimensional as he is sometimes painted.Indeed, he is at paints to point out that, like Wednesday, he deserves better than English football's third tier. "I wouldn't have come to another League One club," he says. "I'd rather have stayed at home playing golf. I'm here because this is my team."
He does belong to a platitude-prone profession but the light in his eyes suggests that reviving one of England's sleepiest giants represents an intensely personal crusade.
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