So... that’s what it’s like to have an owner with a plan!
Stuff happens, quickly, and coherently - a new manager, the chief executive role abolished, and a new focus on the academy. Job losses are never to be celebrated but some restructuring was inevitable given that costs have to be cut again.
But how refreshing was it to see the cost cutting start at the top? Hard luck Martin, your brief was to slash and burn and now you’ve been, well, slashed and burnt. The role of ‘director of change’ was also done away with. Who knew we had such a role? What the hell did that particular director do? Anyone else reminded of the comedy about the BBC – W1A – where all the executives have ludicrous job titles, such as ‘Director of Better’? Time to move on from that era of senior executives creating meaningless roles for each other.
I’ve never heard of Jack Ross, and St Mirren’s recent progress had rather passed me by. I know that St Mirren isn’t a place as such but beyond that my knowledge of the Saints would struggle to fill up the back of a postage stamp. Though St Mirren fans are said to be ‘raging’ at the loss of Ross, which is an encouraging sign. And also the club is where none other than Sir Alex Ferguson cut his managerial teeth, which is some testimony.
He looks the part, like he’s stepped out of a biopic about a promotion-winning manager from 1962 who’s driven to success by inner demons. The sort of manager who makes players train naked on the beach in the snow, or run through obstacle courses chased by dogs. Just seeing his photo, I can’t imagine any player daring to take the piss.
The days of Sunderland being a club where players come for an easy ride has to be over.
But the greatest transformation is to hear the club’s owners actually talk about their plans and to answer questions put by fans without them being scripted in advance. Fans can now form their own view about Donald and Methven by listening to them and judging for themselves if they have a plan and whether it might work. That in itself is to be applauded and my reaction was that these lads have the energy and vision to turn things around.
My only question mark is about whether Stewart Donald might end up becoming too hands on, antagonising the manager and his team. There was a revealing exchange on the Roker Rapport Podcast where the duo were asked if more academy players should be loaned out.
Methven said that was a decision for the footballing staff and not something he ought to get involved in. Donald, on the other hand, started off saying that but finished by saying that players should be out on loan. I hope he can rein in his enthusiasm sometimes to let Ross and his team do the day-to-day management.
So what do we all think? Despite talk of boycotts, over 16,000 of us renewed at the end of another disastrous season - a truly remarkable statistic. The number is rising following the takeover, with fans queuing to buy season cards.
I was amused to see Wolves boasting last week that they’d sold 16,000 season tickets for the Premier League. Well done lads, but it’s not quite big club territory is it? I think we’ll be averaging in the 30,000’s next year, and the away trips will be epic. Energy and enthusiasm in the boardroom are being matched by fans who are desperate for something to get excited about.
And, a final word on Ellis Short. When I was on the Roker Rapport Podcast a few months back I was asked if I’d rather have Mike Ashley owning the club instead of Short. I was mocked, a bit, for saying that Short had more integrity than Ashley. I think my point has now been proved.
Although his reign was disastrous I think Short is a decent human being and he has given Sunderland a chance of coming back by taking a personal hit on the debt. I doubt if the likes of Ashley would have done the same.