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OPINION: How Sunderland’s new owners can build on their encouraging start to life on Wearside

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Sunderland are riding high and our fans are enjoying their weekends again, but how can Donald, Methven and company capitalise on such a positive start to life under their new ownership? 

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The arrival of Steward Donald, Charlie Methven and Juan Sartori on Wearside has refreshed and rejuvenated a fan base - and a club - that was on its knees. They have placed the club back in the hands of the supporters and their enthusiasm and success in their short tenure thus far has been long overdue at Sunderland. However, I’m sure the tangible trio won’t rest on their laurels and will continue to strive for success as they put their stamp on the Black Cats; but how could they achieve this?


Renaming stands

It’s already well-documented that the club are looking into potentially renaming the Stadium of Light and possibly stands within the stadium through commercial partnership.

However, it’s also rumoured that Mr Donald is open to the idea of naming a stand after a Sunderland icon. Names such as Niall Quinn, Bob Murray and Raich Carter have been touted as potential options, who would be more than deserving of such an honour.

It’s believed that a fan vote could be implemented to accumulate either a list of names or one stand-out legend to name a stand in the Stadium after.

This would be a great idea and one that I’m sure all supporters would get behind - further evidence that the new owners would like the fans to be involved in as much of the decision making regarding how the club moves forward as feasibly possible.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

More open training sessions

Perhaps the thing I most fondly remember about the club when I was younger was the ability to attend and watch training sessions freely. It was normal for fans to turn up at the Charlie Hurley centre to watch the players get put through their paces, particularly during the Peter Reid era, and then when Niall Quinn was in charge fans were (well, up until a court case put paid to it happening again under Ellis Short’s watch) allowed to pop along and attend open sessions put on by Roy Keane.

As a young kid I treasured those experiences and loved watching them, often walking past the Academy of light for a sneak peek before public access was held back.

With Christmas and half-term holidays approaching, an opening training session or two from Jack Ross’ men would be a great way for the players to interact with fans and would give us a greater insight into how the manager and his staff work on a day-to-day basis.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Continued social media and fan site interaction

The work that has impressed me the most (by Stewart Donald in particular) since arriving at the club has been the level of contact we’ve seen from the new owners with fans via social media and fan site platforms.

Stewart’s interactions on twitter with fans are a heartwarming and effective way of keeping fans up to date on things with the club, with the owner often dealing personally with fan requests and problems.

At first I was alarmed when the owner of our club was sending emoji-laden tweets to random members of the public and media, but this was partly because it was all just so very new to me. Over time I think Stewart has learned when to engage on twitter and when not, and this can only aid his healthy relationship with the fan base.

His involvement with fan sites and podcasts has, on a personal level, been fascinating and I can’t quite believe how open and honest he is, and how generous he is with his time.

Moving forward it’d be great to see the owner maintaining his involvement with fan sites and podcasts - so, on this one I say “keep it up!”.

Sunderland v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Baby steps

It’s very easy to get carried away when a football club is in good form and riding high, and whilst its great to be ambitious and to go all-in when the opportunities arise, it’s also wise to be reflective and conservative in their approach to running the club.

It would be easy for the owners to go and splash five or ten million in January and ‘buy’ their way to promotion. However, Sunderland’s scars are still showing and the fact that a club of this size is playing in League One is evidence of the mistakes that were made by those in charge of previous regime.

It’s imperative that Stewart Donald and co, stick to their initial budgets, plans and beliefs if they are to achieve what they set out to do - the start they have made shows that they are cooking up a recipe for success on Wearside.