The old saying goes that ‘actions speak louder than words’, and for many Sunderland fans that will certainly be the case no matter how progressive Stewart Donald and his team are with regard to their approach to public relations.
After years of hurt, a sizeable section of the Sunderland support simply won’t be swayed by words, and in a sense that’s fair enough - it’s hard to blame them after the pain we’ve endured. The only thing that will get them fully behind the new set-up at the club are positive results on the pitch.
That being said, there is another large chunk of the fanbase that have welcomed the open approach adopted by Stewart Donald and his team. The willingness to hold clear, transparent dialogue with fans is a unique approach from a Sunderland hierarchy, and many fans see this as a sign of positive change hopefully signalling the start of a new, positive age on Wearside.
Stewart Donald has decided to once again reach out to the fans with another appearance on our very own Roker Rapport podcast after an incredibly successful appearance but a few short weeks ago, and I for one am a huge proponent of this fan-centric, honest approach for several reasons.
Firstly, Stewart Donald’s candid responses to rumour and speculation online are an absolute blessing. With his no-nonsense approach, he swiftly subdues panic and uncertainty within the fanbase - it’s a sign of strong leadership, and is much appreciated. In years gone by fans have been consumed by what-ifs and maybes, yet with Donald’s direct approach to governance fans are quickly reassured whenever speculation emerges.
Secondly, the fact that Donald wants to engage with fan-led sites such as ourselves, A Love Supreme, and Wise Men Say is also a real positive. As great as it is to have the opportunity to engage with Donald, the fact that he sets up appearances in order to “debrief on the first month” and to discuss potential incomings and outgoings is really great for all associated with the club.
In engaging with fan-led operations, Donald opens himself up to real criticism from fans - those with the real passion for this club. There are no ulterior motives, and it’s not really a safe space for the owner to occupy. He could easily release updates via the club website, much like Martin Bain, but he knows that doesn’t build trust or develop a relationship with those he needs the most support from. It’s shrewd yet seemingly genuine, and definitely deserves to be applauded in my opinion.
RETURN OF THE DON— Roker Report (@RokerReport) June 15, 2018
That’s right, Stewart Donald will be making a return to the Roker Rapport studios next Thursday where he’ll be updating us on all the craic at the club!
If you’ve got any questions, leave them in here and we will do it best to ask them all! #safc ⚪️
Finally, the fact that Donald communicates directly with fans essentially creates a dialogue that he can, and will, be judged by. This is probably the most important aspect of the way in which his governance is a positive one.
For example, should he make promises and fail to fulfill them, then fans will be quick to remind him of his prior statements, and he will be held to account. In communicating so freely and efficiently, Donald and co. create a system by which we can accurately measure their progress. There’s no Martin Bain double-speak here - Donald and Methven have been direct in their assertions and will be judged by their statements, though hopefully for all the right reasons.
However, as much as it’s great fun to see our owner engaging with fans and talking the talk, results will determine the new owner’s success on Wearside. Right now though this impressive level of clarity and open interaction is all we have to assess whether we’re moving in the right direction or not - and for me, this level of transparency is a great barometer by which we can measure all future growth.
Will Donald and co. live up to all expectations and walk the walk? We all hope so. At least, however, fans are able to discern just exactly what the plan is and where we go from here - it’s a hell of a lot more than we’ve had in what feels like forever.
So, do you have any questions for the new owner as he prepares to give us his debrief of his first month? If so, get them to us!