It would be fair to say that Martin Bain has enjoyed a difficult relationship with fans on Wearside during 2017. But the necessary dispatching of Simon Grayson, the coup to land Chris Coleman and the recent farce at Rangers involving Derek McInnes means the Sunderland chief executive can begin the new year feeling somewhat vindicated after his annus horribilis.
Bain has taken the brunt of fan ire for some significant failings at Sunderland this year. His part in clinging on to David Moyes as the Scot outstayed his welcome hardly helped, and his mishandling of the redundancies announced as players were rewarded for failure with a boozy trip to New York left a bad taste.
The decision to invite the hordes from Glasgow to descend upon the city and proceed to smash it up was ludicrous given the supposed celebration of the Stadium of Light’s anniversary; and Bain’s summer pursuit of Derek McInnes was an embarrassing affair before the bumbling wreck that was Simon Grayson came, spent thruppence, failed and left.
But snatching a morale-boosting swoop for Chris Coleman from the jaws of a manager hunt which looked like it could defeat Martin Bain was quite the achievement given the abhorrent state of Sunderland at this time.
If the former Rangers administrator has largely been picking up the pieces from the legacy of Margaret Byrne and continued shortcomings of Ellis Short, his first year-and-a-half as CEO have improved little bar some control of the spiralling costs at the debt-ridden hulk on the banks of the Wear.
So it was notable this week that the farce at Bain’s former Ibrox stomping ground has dramatically played out. After McInnes had apparently led Sunderland a merry dance in June before turning Bain’s offer down at the last minute, the Aberdeen boss is seemingly at the centre of a similar storm following the efforts of Rangers to land him.
Following a protracted pursuit, the Glasgow club are back to square one after McInnes revealed he would stay at Pittodrie after all. Rangers issued a curt statement late last week barely hiding their anger that the former Ibrox midfielder had turned them down.
The palava reached a conclusion last Tuesday with McInnes and his assistant - who had also been expected to join Sunderland in the summer - supposedly missing training. With the deal looking all on, the Dons then announced it was all off and that they had blocked the approach.
Another last minute rejection then but the fall-out continues north of the border. Rangers’ credibility is at rock bottom and Aberdeen fans have been voicing their disquiet that McInnes has again been apparantly flirting with others.
Meanwhile on Wearside, Sunderland supporters are still delighted that a manager of Coleman’s stature opted to take a risk on his reputation in the belief he can transform the Black Cats.
And surely Martin Bain has raised a glass and a wry smile watching the shenanigans in Scotland from his new home south of the border. But as Sunderland supporters tentatively approach the end of 2017 with the hope the new year will bring better, perhaps it’s time to draw a line under the chief executive’s difficult 12 months and look ahead.
One thing is certain, I can’t recall discussing a CEO as often as I have Martin Bain - surely even Margaret Byrne didn’t attract this much chatter. And frankly, football fans should rarely have cause to discuss chief execs. The position should be an efficiently competent one, busy in the background keeping the finances ticking over, corporate deals in place and operating the business.
To continue his rehab in the eyes of Sunderland supporters, Bain must retreat to the boardroom and allow Chris Coleman - an experienced football man - to run the football side of the business. Transforming the failed player trading, recruitment, scouting and academy operations must now be left to the Welshman and his team as he begins to set about fixing Sunderland AFC.