Ensure fan-relations become a priority
One of the biggest gripes I’ve had with the club for many years now is that ensuring that there are good relations between supporters and the people that run the show have almost been placed to one side in lieu of just about everything else.
When Niall Quinn was the club figurehead he undoubtedly made many mistakes, but one thing you could never say is that he was inconsiderate. Quinny knew what the fans wanted to hear and he was very good at ensuring we were kept in the loop on matters that were important - and I think that, going forward, Donald has to analyse where the Short regime went wrong with regards to their relationship with supporters and see if he can move to fix it.
I’m not asking for him to come out and blab on every single detail surrounding the club, because that would be unrealistic. But when tensions are high or questions need to be answered he, as owner of the football club, needs to take responsibility and also speak to fans in real terms. That way, rumours just don’t go as overboard as they have done under Short, particularly towards the end with regards to administration speculation.
Replace the pink seats!
I feel petty for even suggesting this but the fact we have pink seats has been a constant source of annoyance for years now, and I just wish someone would bloody sort it out.
We had the carrot dangled in front of us by Martin Bain when he said back in 2016 that “the replacing of the seats will be the most visual aspect of the work we are undertaking and is something I am sure Sunderland fans will welcome”, but after just a section of the East Stand was altered the work was stopped and, ever since, nothing else has really been said about it.
For the new owners to really show that they’re here to make a statement it’ll be of huge importance to us supporters if they press ahead with the replacement of those dastardly pink seats in place of some shiny new ones.
The fact that our Stadium has been allowed to fall into such disrepair shows how little the old regime thought of our grand arena, and it can’t be underestimated just how important it is to fans that we take a bit of pride in our appearance once again.
The @StadiumOfLight is set for a face-lift as its 20th anniversary approaches - https://t.co/y0VvYLPXlV pic.twitter.com/6MaJVwmsTO— Sunderland AFC ⚪ (@SunderlandAFC) August 8, 2016
Stay visible at all times
When the sh*t hit the fan towards the end of Ellis Short’s tenure he left England and virtually disappeared. The lack of accountability and leadership at the very top of the club was a contributing factor in the complete apathy that surrounded Wearside during our back-to-back relegations, with supporters left to feed off the scraps of conversations had between Martin Bain and fan groups in closed-house meetings which, in turn, led to an increased hatred towards decision-makers that opted not to face the music when they really should have.
Stewart Donald appears to be incredibly active on social media and some concerned observers have said that it comes across as amateurish but, personally, I think it’s fantastic.
I feel like in just under a week I’ve learned more about Stewart Donald as a bloke and a football person than I have Ellis Short in ten years. He couldn’t have been more approachable and considerate towards excited Sunderland supporters and deflated Eastleigh fans if he had tried, and to me that’s commendable.
Showing you are in fact human will go a long way towards building a good rapport with the fans of the club that you own, and Donald appears very keen to do just that - but it must continue.
Invest carefully in an infrastructure
Initially Donald will have to put plans in place to ensure our new manager is able to build a team capable of getting back into the Championship as quick as possible, but beyond that we have to think big and, most importantly, ensure that there are better foundations in place so that going forward this club can thrive for more than just one year.
The turnover of players at Sunderland under Short’s tenure has been ridiculous, as has the complete and utter neglect of our academy system and the players that it produces.
Now is our chance to put something down that can stand this club in good stead for years to come - a chance to develop a proper plan for imrpvoing our talented youngsters; maximising the fantastic facilities that we have, and create a recruitment and scouting system that helps us to find players that we otherwise wouldn’t have targeted in previous years.
When Southampton and Leicester were relegated to the third tier they did exactly this and it didn’t do them any harm. Sunderland’s new owners would be wise to take this chance and completely overhaul a massive part of the club that sorely needs it.
Consult supporters on new kits
Like the pink seats thing, this seems petty, but you have to admit that it would make sense for the people you’re expecting to buy your merchandise to have a day it what we produce... right?
Well, for a long time now we’ve not had fan consultation on kits and whilst generally our strips have been okay over the years, the shirt we adopted for our return back to the Championship was incredibly contentious and led many supporters to dub it as ‘untraditional’ and the worst kit we’ve ever had.
So, if the new regime are smart and want to get fans onside with them quickly they’ll ensure that ahead of next season we’re allowed to have a say on what kits the players will wear.
Go on - put it to a vote!